In Sickness and in Health

Battling cancer with love, medicine, and the Giver of both.

Laugh a little

After the heaviness of yesterday’s blog, I decided to post something lighter.

It really has nothing to do with a cancer blog except for the fact that it makes you laugh.  And it’s my philosophy that the more you laugh, the better your sanity.

Enjoy!

Cooking Show

Job Interview

 

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Wrestlings and wranglings

Today is day 88.  Essentially that’s how old my immune system is…88 days.  I’m still just a baby. 🙂  Way back on April 2nd, when I was in the hospital, it was my transplant day.  They called it my birthday and were lamenting that they didn’t have a cake for me.   July 11 will be my 100th day.

In our recent visit with Dr. B. he switched our appointments from every week to every other.  YES!  It was time, since I’m feeling better.  For approximately two weeks lately I’ve had superb energy.  Now in the last couple of days, I’ve been dragging a bit more.  Considering I came off steroids last Sunday, it’s not a wonder.  But I must admit it’s a little disappointing.  I didn’t really connect my energy with the steroids, but after all I guess that’s what they do best.

And…I’m itching again.  My doctor sorta shrugged it off.  I can’t do that so easily.  Some of the itch seems to be the innocent type I had right before my clear scan a month or so ago and some of it reminds me too much of ‘other things.’

Josh and I had a hard prayer session the other day.  As we prayed and faced the possibility of what could be, I had this overwhelming memory of my battle to understand God in all of this.  Back in March I had posted a blog exploring some of this.  Does God actually give us suffering?  And at best, does He allow it?  And if so, what do we mean by allowing it?  And ever since then my soul has fought to understand…

I once helped to write a paper on evil back in college and I wrestled with similar issues then, but nothing prepared me for this wild and raw grasping to understand God.  My soul is laid bare before Him, begging Him to reveal Himself to me.

As Josh and I prayed, I knew I needed to surrender my body and future to Him, but something in me resisted that strongly.  This was not a new feeling to me, but I was tired of wrestling with it.  Why couldn’t I give in?  Was I just being stubborn?  As I talked with Josh I realized that surrender was so repulsive to me because I felt like giving in to God was giving in to cancer.  I thought that to surrender meant saying, “Ok God, I give my body to You and You can bring back this cancer if You want.”  I think this is false.  For one thing, He doesn’t want cancer any more than I do.  For another, it sets Him against me.  I don’t believe He ever actually brings brokenness.  If so, then wouldn’t I also have to say that God is in partnership with it?  That’s preposterous!

I think surrender is submitting to a God who is redeeming brokenness, not bringing it to us.  And I believe He is the only safe place from which we can face it.

There is a huge difference between allowing and bringing.  It might feel like I’m splitting hairs in terminology, but this is a big deal to me.  Not so much in what terms I use, as in what I mean by those terms.  God is sovereign over evil and therefore He has ultimate say in what it can or cannot do, right?  Doesn’t this mean that everything that happens to us first passes by God?  If so, don’t we also have to say then that God allows evil to happen? (It may sound like I’m contradicting my March 27 post.  Maybe I am.)  So, I’m ok with saying He allows it…I think. 🙂  But if we say He brings it into our lives, isn’t it logical to then blame Him for it?

I still have lots of questions:

  • What to do with Scripture that seems to indicate God inflicts suffering: i.e. Lamentations 3:332,33—“For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.  For He does not afflict willingly [or literally from His heart] or grieve the sons of men.” NAS
  • Are we to glorify suffering?  Is it an honor to suffer?  There’s a tension in me over this: I have a problem with acting as if the more we suffer, the better our life.  Suffering can be a means to a good end, but it is not goodness in and of itself.  Isn’t it a part of the fall?  I don’t think we ought to desire it just so we can be more holy.  On the other hand, isn’t it a high honor to suffer with Christ?  I give up trying to figure it out.
  • How did Jesus handle suffering?  He asked for it to be removed from Him.  He “…endured the cross, despising the shame…”  But what did He say to trump all?  “Not my will but thine be done.”
  • Does that mean it’s God’s will for us to suffer?

It boils down to this: I don’t fully understand the ways of God or who He is.  I don’t see the big picture.  Therefore, I am committed to Him regardless of whether He allows suffering or brings it.  I don’t ask for suffering.  I ask for it to be removed as Jesus did.  Yet I also say, as He did, “Not my will but thine be done.”  I can say this because I know that He is GOOD.

In the meantime I keep wrestling with Him like Jacob and ‘demanding’ to know Him.  And with Job I say, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.  Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.”

 

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Luray, VA

Luray is becoming our favorite vacation town. It’s far enough from home to give the getaway feeling, but not far enough to require lots of road time and gas money. Situated in the Shenandoah Valley, just west of the Shenandoah National Park, the town offers a quaint blend of redneck and artsy, both of which are relaxed and comfortable. Have it your way. Where else will you find Uncle Buck’s Family Restaurant across the street from Gathering Grounds Patisserie & Cafe?

Of course, the main attraction in Luray is the caverns, but we decided to forego the underworld this time. Instead we shopped, ate, visited monkeys, and worshipped with Lutherans.

It was an unstable Thursday evening when we got there. But we did make it to the Luray Singing Tower for a recital.

On Friday afternoon we went shopping. I have two criteria for good used bookstores: good books and good prices. Bank Street Books is a good used bookstore. Not in any bookstore can you find Augustine’s Confessions on the same shelf as a biography of Harold S. Bender. Believe it or not, I’m enjoying the biography. I left Augustine for another day.

Friday evening we hung out beside Hawksbill Creek. Luray (parts of it at least) should be a model for town and country dwelling together in peace.

We spent most of Saturday at the Luray Zoo. The owner is a bit of a Steve Irwin type who likes to get very personal with the animals he keeps.

As Jean mentioned, we visited Burny and Sandy on our way home. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of their place (or of them), but it’s as simple and classy as they are. Beautiful people.

So many blessings.

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By the way, I recently heard from Cameron Von St. James, the guy who wrote the blog for us awhile ago. He sent us this link to a video about his wife’s battle with mesothelioma (http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather). Enjoy.

Also, this video helped heal our souls. I hope it can do the same for all who are broken and need healing. (Hat-tip to Anita for the link.)

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The thanksgiving continues

Today I reached 75 days post transplant.  They say the first 100 days are the most vulnerable as far as immunity, or lack thereof, so I’m counting down…or up.  Whatever.  My cold is pretty well gone for which I am so thankful.  This last week especially I just felt so good.  Good energy; good spirits.  Sometimes I tell Josh, “My body just feels at rest.”  Yes, I get tired but it’s a relaxed and restful tired.  Not this extreme fatigue.  Chemo made me feel like I had a war going on in my body.

 
Thank-you Jesus!  I don’t know how many times I’ve said that the last while.

 
At times I still find myself reeling at what I just came through.  Kinda like, “Ok, now what just happened?”  The transplant already feels like a dream even though it was a glaring reality at the time.  A nightmare.  I struggle to know how to reflect or even how much I should.  I never want to forget it and yet I do want to.  I suppose it’s the grace of God in the resiliency of the human soul that allows me to forget as much as I do.

 
This afternoon on our way home from an anniversary trip (more on that later), Josh and I had the wonderful privilege of visiting with another post-transplant patient and his wife.  Burny and Sandi are a couple we met after transplant at the cancer center at UVA.  He is 69 years old and went through the same process I did.  He is only about 15 days ahead of me.  I am amazed at how healing it is to talk with him.  We reflect; we compare notes; we find we are going through similar post-transplant struggles.  And we just delight in the camaraderie.  Our hospital stays overlapped though we didn’t know each other at the time.  I remember seeing his last name, Trueworthy, on the hospital board in the stem cell unit when I’d walk the hall, but I never saw him or his wife.  We later met in our frequent trips to the infusion center after being released.

 
So…Josh and I celebrated our second anniversary.  Can it only be two years?  We both agree it feels like five.

 
We decided to go to Luray, VA, again.  We were first there last year for an early anniversary celebration.  Besides Josh getting a migraine, we spent a very enjoyable time there.  He plans to post a few pictures later.

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Enjoying Life

I’m receiving little pricks from here and there trying to motivate me to update.

Somehow the lack of drama translates into fewer blogs.  I am thankful to be doing well for the most part.  We are currently down to weekly visits with Dr. B.  This usually happens on Tuesdays.  They recently switched me from going straight to the Infusion Center to going straight to my doctor’s clinic.  The levels in my blood are becoming more and more stable.  If I would happen to need potassium or magnesium or anything else, they would simply send me to Infusion.  Dr. B. looked at my labs today and seemed very pleased.  I didn’t need anything.

I do have a cold right now, so he’s putting me on an antibiotic just to prevent infection.  I really haven’t felt too miserable besides a sore throat, some congestion, and a fog horn of a cough. 🙂  He is easing me back on my steroids because they can bring immunity down.  I’m cool with that!

This past weekend I had the wonderful privilege of having three of my Georgia friends with me.  Laura Keller, who is currently serving in Canada, Kimberly Eshleman, who just returned from Thailand on furlough, and Coleen Barnhart, who is the best artist I’ve ever known.  From visiting a Thai restaurant to shopping at Global Foods to shoe shopping to taking pictures in a park to feeding chickens and longhorns to just having a lot of “talk time,” our weekend was colorful and fun!  It was extra special to me to meet my namesake.  Laura’s little girl, Keira Jean, was along.  So sweet!  She rolled with the punches and provided a lot of joy to our weekend.

I am so grateful to be alive and to once again have hair poking through my scalp!  Yippee!

 

 

 

Here is proof of our weekend:

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Me-n-Keira Jean

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