our cancer journey

December 30, 2015
Todd was texting and I was halfheartedly playing a game of Sudoko on my Kindle. I was glad I thought to grab it. I was also glad for the free Wi-Fi in the emergency room. There had been a slew of nurses and other people in and out of our room and we sat and waited for the CAT scan results. Blood work had already come back clear and so we were hoping that the scan would show a small enough kidney stone to pass without needing a procedure. Todd’s pain level had gone back up so they had given him some morphine to help the pain.

The door opens and I looked up from my Kindle. A no-nonsense woman entered and identified herself as Dr. Something or other. She strode into the room and stopped mid-stride.
“Who is with you?”
A pause. “This is my wife.”
I climb up in the bed and sit next to my husband.
Dr. Something nodded her approval and headed to the computer to pull up Todd’s chart.
“I have some bad news for you.” She said still typing on the computer.
Todd and I half smirked.
“Nice opening line,” I thought.
She looked at Todd, then me, then back to her computer.
“We found cancer in your abdomen…” More words followed and kept coming. Technical words, words I didn’t understand. They filled up the room and made it very hot and very cold at the same time.
My hand clasp Todd’s.
“I don’t know what you’re saying.” I interrupt her. What did she just say? I can’t remember.
“Sarcoma. It’s they type of cancer.” More words. I couldn’t make them out though. 
A feeling hits my chest. This didn’t seem like a joke. But it didn’t feel real.
Dr. Something is trying to explain something. Probably something important. Probably something I should know. But for some reason I just can’t make out what she is saying.
Finally the words stop. She leaves.

And we are left there in the hospital bed together. Crying. Staring. Thinking. Silent.

By the time Dr. Something came back, hours had passed. Todd had gone in for more scans, my good friends had our kids settled down for the night at their house, and another good friend had taken on the task of keeping us from falling into a pit of despair with all the unknowns. She sat in the ER room until 2 am with us, laughing, crying, and thinking with us.

Dr. Something looked at Mandy, “Who is this?”
Todd, defensively, “Our friend, she can be here.”
Dr. Something gave the nod of approval.
Again the chart was pulled up and again all the words. I could comprehend more of what she was saying this time, a mass has grown on Todd’s psoas muscle. It’s crushing his ureter - the tube that carries fluid from the kidney to the bladder. That’s why his kidney were hurting so much. It can’t drain.

So many words. They are so heavy. They are crushing me.

December 31, 2016
Todd woke up this morning and cried. He had been hoping he had a bad dream and would wake up and it would be all over. But, it’s not a dream.

I picked up the kids from my friend Jenny’s house this morning. I faked this normal, cheery voice when talking to them. But I don’t feel normal or cheery. But they are children, so I need to act like everything is normal or cheery, right? How am I supposed to act? I don’t know.

Todd has slept most of the day due to the narcotics he’s taking for pain. I have spent the day bouncing from peeking in on Todd, checking the zillions of notifications that continually pop up on my phone, and trying to be normal for the kids. 

The kids now know that Papa has “cancer” although that doesn’t mean too much to them at this point. They know he has a tummy ache and is taking medicine. They know he’s going to have surgery to try to take out the “cancer” in him.

I finally sat down with the 500 page report (slight exaggeration but it might as well be 500 pages). I’m finding out all kinds of tidbits that the doctor may or may not have told us last night. For instance, there are 3 masses - 2 in his abdomen and 1 on the lining of the sac around his lungs. They suspect the middle size one, 2 cm, is metastatic and the smallest one, by his lungs, to be benign.

There are a lot of words in the report. They are very large and make my head hurt. I feel like a kindergartner trying to sound them out. I’ve called some dear medical friends more than once to ask what words mean. What does all of this mean? We have a lot of questions. Monday feels like a very long time away.

January 1, 2016
I sit down to eat and end up staring at my food. Already I’m hearing, “you need to eat,” “you need to make yourself eat.” I put food in my mouth because I should. But I can’t remember the last time I was hungry. Wait, yes, I was hungry in the hospital room when we still thought we were dealing with a kidney stone. Cancer has eaten away my hunger. But still I eat. For Todd, and for the kids.

I’ve begun writing the letter that our donors will receive next week. Of course until we know more and have a plan we don’t quite know what to say to people, but we’re preparing. For the best, for the worst, for just an hour at a time.

Slowly we’re letting friends know, although a well-meaning friend has shared this information with the world before we feel ready. I can tell when someone knows as soon as I say “hello.” It’s always the same:
Me: “Hello?”
Person: “Hi Cas, this is so-and-so…” Their voice is always soft, and they speak gentle words that they fumble over. It’s not that I don’t love and appreciate people for caring - because we do. We do. It’s just that we are still processing. We are still wrapping our heads around the “c” word.

Everyone is asking so many questions. “What can we do for you?” What can you do? What can I do? I end up pacing the house and checking on Todd and feeling restless but unable to concentrate on anything. I wish my sister and mama Joyce was here. I don’t want to be alone. But I don’t really want to talk to anyone either.

Todd has always been my rock. It never occurred to me that my rock might break. Everyone is telling me I need to be strong. Be strong for Todd. I’m trying so hard but I feel so weak. And cold. It’s so cold.

Despite the constant ups and downs, today was a great day - Todd’s pain subsided for most of the day. Sam spent the day with friends, and Amelia was there until after lunch, then she came home and I took her out to a friend’s to ride a horse. We both needed that.

It was the first time I’ve left Todd since I picked him up to take him to the ER Wednesday afternoon. It was hard and I was scared. We texted often and that helped ease my mind and let me focus on Amelia more. She is proud that she has moved from walking the horse to trotting. A few times I had to remind her she can’t canter yet. Love my horse girl.

January 2, 2016
A new thought came to my mind early this morning. What if… what if this was all just a mistake? What if the radiologist was wrong? I closed my mind and tried to think what it would be like. A wave of hope flickered through me, gently warming my cold heart.

A second new thought came from nowhere while I was in the shower. All along we’ve been thinking about surgeries and chemo and radiation and treatment and support and getting though this. But what if he doesn’t? I could potentially be a single mother… I mean, anyone could lose their spouse any day of the week, so many things could happen - but we’re potentially standing on the brink of something happening.

I wondered briefly what it would be like to be a single mother, and then I let my mind turn to Jesus. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I believe He does. I don’t know how this will work out for good, but it will. Even if I don’t see the good right away.

January 3, 2016
2016 isn’t quite starting out the way I expected. This year was going to be the year we moved back to Guyana. We were building a house in Paruima village. We were hoping to adopt a child this year. Things aren’t what we thought they were - but we are at peace with it. Most of the time.

This morning I went to the supermarket to get a load of organic veggies for Todd. While waiting for the cashier to ring me up, I got a text from Todd.
“And he wants tomatoes.” I mumbled.
“What do you need, sweetheart? We’ll get it for you.” The cashier smiled.
I was quick to not cause trouble. “No, no, that’s ok. I’ll pay then go get it.”
“No, I’ll get it, what do you need?” The girl bagging the beets asked.
“Tomatoes. Organic. Whatever is cheapest.”
“How many?”
“6…?” I wasn’t sure. But she took off towards the tomatoes.
The cashier was making friendly conversation when another customer got in line.
“You can ring her up, I’ll wait.”
She grabbed something from the lady’s pile, but then put it in my bag.
“Oh, that’s not mine!”
She looked at the lady, “Oh my goodness. She’s buying all this healthy food and I was going to be so proud of her for buying some pudding!”
We all three laughed.
I looked at the cashier again, “I’m so sorry, I should have just paid and then went and got it.”
She was in the middle of assuring me that it’s no problem, as was the lady behind me, when I burst out crying. Hard. And loudly. If ever I needed a transport beam, it was then. I was so embarrassed.
When I calmed down I looked at the perplexed cashier. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know where that came from. I just found out my husband has cancer.” Why did I say that? Why am I telling strangers? It just came out.
They were very sympathetic and soon my tomatoes arrived and I could retreat to the truck.
Lord, help me.

Today was actually a good day, even though we had a rough patch. I got a funny email and went to tell Todd. I found him on the bathroom floor, curled up. My heart went to my toes. Then, I heard him. The sound no wife ever wants to hear. The sound of my husband sobbing in a dispair I can do nothing to ease. My dad’s words played in my head - “You need to be strong for him now.” I wanted to cry with him, but instead I just held him and rubbed his back. I prayed. I wondered when our hearts will heal. But I didn’t cry.

Todd’s pain wasn’t as bad to today and I’m so thankful. He was able to be out and about, which he was thankful for. He’s going stir-crazy in bed. It took a bit of stubbornness on his part to convince me, but I’m glad I didn’t fight him. He was right - he did need to get out of the house. He and Sam spent an hour exploring Toys R Us while Amelia and I shopped for some winter clothes for her. I guess now she’ll need more than 2 pairs of pants.

I’m anxious for tomorrow. I’m not sure what to expect. I’m not sure what I’m hoping to hear. But ready or not… Tomorrow is the day.

January 4, 2016
I woke up with my heart in my throat. I planned on turning off the alarm and going back to sleep (this staying up till midnight and waking up at 6 business is getting old). Instead, my brain figured out in about .5 seconds that it’s Monday.

I was ushering everyone out the door and had to go to the bathroom one more time. Nerves making things… overactive. I probably shouldn’t talk about that in public. There is so much in my mind, it might spill out. I have several pages of the little notebook Mandy bought me to write down questions for the doc filled. What is it? How did? When can we? What if…?

We sat in the little room for probably 20 minutes. Or 40. Or 5. Or an eternity. I’m not really sure. The doctor came in, let me turn on the audio recorder I brought (bless her) and we started talking. It turns out she couldn’t tell us that much more than what we had already deciphered from reading the report from the ER. They need to do a body scan to make sure there’s not cancer elsewhere in the body.

We keep using that word. I hate it. Cancer. What a jerk.

I again asked - are they sure it’s cancer without having a biopsy? Modern technology and experienced radiologists are a thing to be marveled. They are sure. She said, in a very unconvincing tone, that there is a slight chance that it’s not cancer, but she - nor the radiologist - think so. The size and shape and texture and behavior and whatever of the mass apparently just screams, “I am cancer and I suck!” Jerk.

So. Ultrasound is scheduled. Scan is not. Biopsy is not. Hoping those two would get scheduled today, but she thinks they’ll happen this week.

We have some heavy options to weigh about where to get treatment. Our family is spread throughout the Pacific Northwest. If we go to Oregon and to OHSU, we won’t have our church family, Bible study group, and homeschool group. My Bible study alone is keeping us alive with meals each night. I’m sure Todd and I both would have lost more weight than we already have if not for those meals. I still don’t have hardly any appetite but it’s so much easier to eat when the food is put on the table for us. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank these families enough.

We can stay in Tennessee where we have a house and a fantastic support system, but then we are so far from family. And we need them too. Almost all our family would be within a 5-hour drive. But almost all of them would be an hour or more away.


So many things to sort out. The doctor said we need to decide pretty quick because treatment should all be at one place, ideally. Pro/con list. Flip a coin. Draw straws. Cast the lot. How can we decide?

January 5, 2016
Trials. The Bible says to rejoice in them. Have you ever rejoiced in your trials? I haven’t. I don’t even know what that means. How can you be happy about a trial, especially when it’s ripping your life and your heart apart?

The night we were in the ER, my life changed. All I could see that night was darkness. Sometimes if I would squint into the darkness, I would see the light, waiting for me to run to it. But mostly it was just a scary, dark night.

The next few days were blurs. In fact, I just had to go back and reread my journal to make sure they actually happened. But I wrote words about them, so I guess I kept on breathing.

Today it's been almost a week since the dark night. And while we’re still adjusting and trying to figure out what our life looks like now and trying to make hard decisions, the fog and the darkness is lifting. I can feel the fresh air and the sunshine on my face. Not every moment, but some.

The other night I went to a friends house to pick some things up, and on the way I talked to Jesus. I’ve been praying, it’s been more of the groaning, wordless kind of prayers. I haven’t known what to really pray. But that night, I was able to find the words to tell Jesus that I feel scared and that I needed Him.

One thought that I would have expected to have, but I don’t, is “Why us? We are missionaries and gave our whole hearts and lives to God, so why us?”

Why not us?

We gave our whole hearts and lives to God. They are His. While I’m scared at the thought of losing my best friend and my partner in everything, he’s not mine to keep. I want to keep him, and I’m praying I will, but he belongs to God, just like I do. Like my kids do.

We are missionaries. We’ve poured our lives into serving this God of love. What God is most concerned about is saving the lost, so that’s what we’re most concerned about too. If God can use this situation to somehow show His love to, say, 4 people who then chose to follow Him, then we’re ready! If taking my husband’s life will save even one person, then we freely give it!

I feel so unworthy that God would chose us for the honor of this hard task. I kind of feel like Abraham and I’ve been asked to offer up my precious husband. I’m willing. It’s hard. But I’m willing. And oddly enough, I’m rejoicing in this trial. Still not every moment, but more and more. As the sunshine warms my face and my lungs fill with fresh air, I find more joy in each breathe.

I am yours, Lord. I trust You.
January 6, 2016
It was this time last week my whole world was turned upside down. I feel like I’m forced to walk on a treadmill. Only the treadmill is on a roller coaster. And there is a tornado. Up, down, 5 steps back, and everything is up in the air again. Rinse, repeat.

I got puppy therapy today

This morning I woke up to the news that Todd is required by the FAA to ground himself. That means he’s not allowed to be PIC (pilot in command). Having cancer means he lost his medical. The FAA will clear him to fly PIC again 1 year after the cancer is totally gone and treatments are done.

The only thing on the planet, other than finding out my husband has cancer, that makes my heart break to pieces is finding out his love, passion, and lives work is being taken away. Down, down deep.


We later found out that there might be loopholes, and it might depend on the type of cancer. I am praying this is true. Back up.

Later, I hear a knock at the door. I look at my friend who was over, and in the middle of a good cry with me, and winced. I open the door to a group of kind looking people. I wasn’t ready for this visit. Down we go.

The came to pray with us, encourage us, and people I had never met before left us with $1,700 in our hands. Soaring high to see that God is providing through strangers!

Up, down, 5 steps back, and everything is up in the air again.

We found out that there are very specialized Sarcoma hospitals in the US. Hospitals that only deal with this rare cancer. Did you know this? I did not. The thought never occurred to me.
But there are. Only, not in Tennessee. If we want to best care to Todd - which we do - maybe it will be best to leave after all. The though of leaving our support network makes me sink down, makes my heart sink down.

On the phone with the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance and as I’m talking to the new patient adviser, I begin to feel so strongly that this is where I want my husband to get care. And then we start talking about the finances. Down, down to the bottom dollar. They won’t even make an appointment unless they know we can pay for it. Our insurance doesn’t cover out-of-state. Down, down I go.

And then she tells me that if we’re self pay, we have to pay a deposit.
“Are we talking $50 or $50,000??”
A pause. “$1,600.”
I laugh.
She must think I’m crazy.
I am laughing harder, “I just have to tell you something. These strangers showed up at my door today…”

Up, up to the heavens where God quietly whispers in my ear, “I am with you.” 

Up, down, 5 steps back, and everything is up in the air again.

So now we are trying to see if we can get insurance in Washington. Figure out housing. Get Todd over there. Get the kids and I over there. I need to pack. What do I pack for Todd? What do cancer patients need? Will I be able to cook for him and keep him on his whole foods, plant-based diet? This part, the part with all the questions, feels like the treadmill. The questions run and run through my mind but so far, our answers continue to be few.


I would like to address something that has been said to us a few times so far. Everyone has their own spin on it, but basically it’s a statement about how we’re so amazing, or so strong, or so whatever.

Yesterday I wrote about why we aren’t asking, “why us?” and this is a continuation of that thought. This is going to suck and it’s going to be hard - but aren’t the things that are the most meaningful and the most worth it hard? We are ready for this. I mean, as ready as we can be at the moment, but God is sustaining us. God is leading us. We truly believe that. That doesn’t make us amazing - that makes us Christians.

We are no more amazing than anyone else.

We are no more strong than anyone else.

We have nothing special in and of ourselves that makes it so we can be or do something extra-ordinary.

We are simply people who love and trust God.

We go through ups and we go through downs.

And when we’re up, we thank God.

And when we’re down, we thank God.

We are amazing? No. We are nothing but vessels. Who’s love we’re filled up with - now THAT’S amazing.

January 7, 2016
It feels like weeks since I’ve written last - so much has happened. So many emotions. So many feelings. So many blessings.

Our day began with the news that our local hospital, where we went to the ER initially, called to tell us that the tumor is inoperable as-is. They wanted to start chemo right away to try to shrink it so it can be removed as soon as possible.

One thing we have learned about Sarcoma is that about half of Sarcomas are not responsive to chemo.

You can read between the lines and imagine the thoughts that exploded as the chain-reaction of realizations went through my mind. My husband looked numb. I went into “strong mode” and set to work on the tasks that needed to be done.

Be strong for Todd. Stay strong for him. Don’t break down yet.

By the time I got home from the bank and picking up trash bags, the west coast was awake. I might have made more calls today than I’ve made in the last 4 years combined.

After paying the deposit to make an appointment (which praise the Lord, they will give back to us after the insurance gets all entered), I was able to start talking to various departments around the hospital. My little notebook is filling up fast.

The surgeon who will be doing the surgery to remove the cancer needed to look at Todd’s file before they could give us too much info. We made a tentative appointment for January 18th, the first available appointment. The lady scheduling it said that we could do the biopsy tomorrow morning as planned and have it all sent up to Seattle.

Hours later, they called back. The doctor had looked at the file. Suddenly an appointment opened up a week earlier and they want him in right away. The doc also said no biopsy here - he wants to do it himself in Seattle when Todd gets here. I’d like to think I shouldn’t feel nervous about the haste, but after hearing this morning what the local hospital’s opinion is, it’s hard not to. 

January 8, 2016
Today we packed up the hangar. Eleven months of blood, sweat, and tears was boxed away, and put in one of 2 piles: one of our personal belongings that got piled in one corner, waiting for us to return to pick back up where we left off, and the other in the opposite corner of everything needed to finish the plane. That pile is the small pile.

If this cancer thing wouldn’t have happened, I might have been writing about our first flight today. It’s that close. But, nonetheless not finished. Everything is boxed up neatly, waiting for someone to be able to come along and finish it up so it can get down to Guyana.

Today was the most normal day I’ve had since this all started. There were some hilarious parts, like when my girlfriend and I got back to the hangar and realized that the tailgate had not latched and the massive truck grill had fallen out at some point. Not hilarious until we found it and were able to make sure no one was hurt.

And there were some surprises, like when I took Amelia out to say goodbye to the horses and was thinking we might be able to let her get the pony out to ride in the yard, and we were actually surprised with one last little trail ride. I didn’t want to get on that horse, but as soon as I did, I was so very glad for this blessing. It was the first time since all this happened that I felt free. Just for a moment, all was right in my world and I felt the sunshine on my face.

And there was a scary part, when Amelia’s friend was bucked off the pony. I was so glad - we were all so glad - she was OK. Just a little scared. When I got a call from the hospital I popped off my horse and the little one got on her. I was happy to see her get back on.

The best part of the day was finally getting a prescription for some stronger medication for Todd. I’ve been worrying so much about him flying alone in so much pain. At least he’s got something to help him now. I just hope he’s not too drugged!

The most exciting part of our day was finding out that Amelia (6) has not one, but two loose teeth! Both her bottom front teeth are loose and she is thrilled! She’s been wanting to lose a tooth ever since her friend Liam lost his first tooth.

It’s nice to have something to smile about.

January 9, 2016
Today, for the first time, I let my mind go where I haven’t let it go yet. I was in the shower and I started thinking about what our lives would look like without Todd. And before you all tell me to rebuke those thought and not have them - my reality is that I can lose my husband. And more than just we can lose anyone at anytime.

I thought about how I would tell the children, and what it would be like to have to call places (student loans, etc.,). Then I thought of sleeping at night all by myself. And I wondered what I would do and where I would go. Not planning, just… wondering. Not getting worked up, just realizing the reality of the situation.

Reality is a weird thing...

People keep treating us like we’re saints. And we are so, so, so not. We sin just as much as everyone else. We have the same struggles as everyone else. We are just as human as everyone else. If you are tempted to think that for whatever we are better/stronger/saintlier than the rest of humanity, please don’t. This entire experience has humbled us more than I knew possible and I fully know how unworthy we are of the ridiculous blessings we are experiencing right now.

It’s because of God’s love, not because of us. Can we just be clear about that?

This afternoon after church our closest friends, our pastor, and the elders from our church came to our house and surrounded us with so much love. They shared, encouraged, and prayed for us, and the pastor anointed Todd. Such a moving experience. It was draining because it was so emotional. Emotions make me so tired. I wish I couldn’t feel anything for just a little while.

I feel like I could start a new blog called, “All the Ways the Andersons are Blessed.” It would be a full time job just to keep it updated. Yesterday I took Amelia to church and this is what I have to say about our church - they know how to love on people! I can’t even tell you. The love was so thicks you could feel it in the air. And these loves gave so generously to Todd and I. We were blown away with a substantial gift that our church family all contributed to.

So much love. So many blessings.

January 23, 2016
Life just keeps going on.

The children get hungry, the truck needs gas, the trash needs emptied.

All around us are people who are living lives the go on seemingly without any weightiness in their hearts.

And we’re still in a holding pattern.

Todd’s biopsy was rather uneventful. They did it quickly and we spent most of our day watching HGTV and eating hospital food. The nurse in the recovery area was in every 30 minutes to check Todd’s vitals. She checked his incision. She made sure we knew were the bathroom was.

We made a last minute decision to leave the children with Aunties Lisa and Joyce. I spent the whole day amazed that I had planned on bringing them along and realizing what a disaster that would have been.

Instead of chasing kids, I held Todd’s hand and made inappropriate jokes at every given chance. The valet parking guy was trying to be sympathetic but I was cheering because chemo patients get free parking.

Who does that?

Underneath the jokes, the busyness, the “strength” that people see, I’m still left standing alone in the rain, wondering if my husband will live or if he will die.

It’s a very lonely place to stand, no matter who is around. I smile and even laugh at the appropriate times in conversation. I make the appropriate small talk. I do all the things that seem like normal things people would do. All the while, still wondering.

It’s been three and a half weeks now since our lives were turned upside down. Three and a half weeks of uncertainty, craziness, and wondering. I feel like there isn’t much more to say now than when I first started writing. We still don’t know anything more than he has cancer.

Todd’s pain has only increased. The mass of cancer pushes and pulls on things in his belly. He spends most of his time in bed, but also suffers from cabin fever. He looks for opportunities to get out of the house, but then usually ends up regretting it, hurting and back in bed.

So this is where we’re at: the biggest mass of cancer is around all of his main arteries and veins. It’s around other things too and causing other problems, but this is the biggest concern.

We’ll find out hopefully Monday or Tuesday what the results of the biopsy are. That will determine our plan of attack. About 50% of sarcomas aren’t responsive to chemo, so we’d have to try other treatments.

This is the holding pattern we’re in. This is my reality. An inoperable tumor that may or may not be responsive to chemo.

Will it be best case? Or worst case?

Will we grow old together? Or will I be a single mom?

I’m at peace with all the questions, most of the time. I have them, but I have faith too. Faith that no matter the outcome, I won’t be alone. Faith that in the hardest moments Jesus will hold me tight and hold my heart together when it feels like it’s breaking. Faith that goodbye isn’t forever.

I have faith and I am blessed. No matter the outcome, I am blessed.

February 6, 2016
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!

February 7, 2016
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.

February 13, 2016
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.


February 25, 2016
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.

March 23, 2016
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!!!

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.

March 31, 2016

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.

April 24, 2016
I am a widow.

The word doesn’t want to come out of my mouth, but it’s a word my brain keeps playing with.

I keep thinking back over the last 3 weeks. I sat in the hospital next to his bed for more hours than I can count.

Before he was intubated, I would lay next to him and beg him to just breathe.

Just keep on breathing…

His lungs were destroyed so fast. I am what his doctors call an “excellent patient advocate.” That means I asked questions like my life depended on it… like his life depended on it…

The doctors were very kind and patient and were good at showing me the progressive scans and X-rays of his lungs. I’m no doctor, but even I could see that what was happening was happening very, very fast.

One of the chemotherapy drugs he was given - a lower dose than usual - caused a devastating toxic reaction in his lungs that happens so rarely it’s never been studied. When it does happen, there is only a very small percentage that doesn’t respond to the steroids…

From when the disease began until death was about 10 days.

Ten of the longest, shortest days of my life.

And there was nothing anyone could do.

We said goodbye, just in case. He made the decision to be intubated. I was both thankful that he made that choice so I didn’t have to, and devastated that he chose to. We all knew it was the last chance he had to live, but we also new that chance was only a whisper.

We laid in the hospital bed together, whispering our last words.

We have a little thing we’ve been saying to each other for almost 15 years. He says the first line and then I finish it with my part. I can’t tell you what we say because it’s our secret. But we both knew we were saying it for the last time.

As the doctors and nurses bustled around the room preparing for the intubation, instrumental hymns played from Pandora. I watched the doctor unpack the emergency kits and give orders to the nurse.

My husband and I gazed into each other’s eyes for the last time, and I was asked to sit in a chair away from the bed. I wanted to scream at everyone to leave him alone and to get out. I wanted to scream at my husband to not give up. To not leave me. I wanted to run back over and so he could hold me one last time.

The doctor came over and we had to discuss if they would resuscitate him if it didn’t go well. The decision was made that they would not.

The roughly 48-hours he was intubated there were moments when we could communicate to him. He would nod or shake his head, or give a thumbs up. He tried to write to me a few times, but the only word I was ever able to read from him was, “HURT.”

His lungs continued to deteriorate so quickly. First a hole in one lung, then one in the other. The medical team worked around the clock to try to keep him stable. Friday morning it was apparent that they no longer could. He was likely already suffering brain damage from the low oxygen levels. Because of the lack of oxygen, his heart was also beginning to fail.

There was no more chance. No more hope.

The children arrived around 10 am. Amelia sobbed like a child should never, ever cry when I told them that Papa was going to die. I explained what was going to happen. I reminded them what we believe about the Christian hope we have after death. I wept with them.

We all went into the room and surrounded him with all the love in our hearts. Both our families were there, and my best friend.

The tube came out and he continued to breathe on his own for about an hour. And then, he didn’t.

He slipped quietly into the deep sleep of death as I clung to his side.

My heart. Oh my heart.

I never imagined I could feel so dead inside.

Yet, despite all the sadness and pain, it doesn’t feel dark to me. Instead of what I was expecting - a dark shadow to consume me - I instead find myself wrapped in love and light.

Maybe the darkness is still to come, but for now, I am comforted knowing that my husband can rest until Jesus calls for him to wake up and go to heaven. I am comforted knowing how much love is being poured out for our family. I am comforted by looking into my children’s faces and seeing him live on. I am comforted with the knowledge that he ran his race well, didn’t stop until the end and finished with grace and love. 


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