Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Update 2 Million and 65!

Have you ever wished for a window? 
My dad worked at Kodak for 30 years.  Because of the need for total dark conditions for many of Kodak's manufacturing processes, he had a few jobs that were located in windowless rooms and buildings.  I remember being probably 10 or 11 and feeling really bad for him that, in the winter months, he'd spend most weekdays without seeing daylight; he'd go in before the sun came up and come home after it had gone down.  Although he never complained, it just didn't seem right to this little girl that anyone had to live anywhere that didn't have windows.
In some respects, today was a windowless day for me.
One would think that MRIs, CT scans, bone scans, blood work/tumor markers, pain symptoms (or lack thereof)... would be clear windows that reveal what's going inside my body.   So far - today included - this has not held true for me.  This time, the MRI I had last week didn't show anything surprising (it wasn't clear, but didn't show anything vastly different than my other scans), but my tumor markers were above normal for the first time since June.   
So that's bad, right?  Tumor markers are no longer normal...that's got to be  bad, right?
It could be.
It could not be.
Apparently it's not uncommon that when a patient starts a new treatment (as I did this past month), tumor markers can go up temporarily. So although it could be a sign that my cancer isn't responding to anti-estrogen based therapies, it's not always the case and my doctor tends to think that I am responding to the treatment.  She said to me, "I'm not all that concerned, Kristie.  They didn't tick up much.  We need to just wait and see until next month."
Wait.  And see.  Next month.
Five words that, quite honestly, I'm getting tired of hearing.
Five words that make my head and heart be tempted to swirl with fear, worry and frustration.
Five words that make everything in me look frantically for a window.
Where is that window that tells me - unequivocally - what's going on inside my body?  
I've asked Roswell this question.  I've asked my friends in the medical world this question.  Heck, I may have even asked YOU this question in a moment of frustration!  And don't think that I haven't asked the Lord this question as well.  I've asked Him a million and one times, "What is going on in my body, Lord? Where is that window, Lord?  Show it to me."
Do you know what stinkin' answer I get every time - whether I want this answer or not...whether I'm looking for this answer or not...whether I cry when I hear it or not...whether it satisfies me at that moment or not?
Kristie,  I am all that you need to see.
But, Lord, I want to see - with my own eyes - what my bones are doing, what this disease may or may not be doing to my body.
Kristie, I am all that you need to see.
But, Lord, why is this so confusing? Why can't I see for sure which medical route to take, which nutritional route to take, how this will go?
Kristie, I am all that you need to see.
Laura and John and the kids came to our house on Sunday.  The boys went to the Bills' game (and I use the word "game" loosely). The little girls played American Girl dolls while  Laura and I talked. And talked.  And...guess what...talked.  Although we talked about way more things than what I can mention here, we talked about this old hymn that both of us used to think was a bunch of old "church-y" words that didn't mean much to us.  Boy, has that changed.
The hymn is "Be Thou My Vision."  Although it's not generally my "style" of music and although it uses some old, old words that are hard to immediately understand, I have fallen in love with this hymn.  (Click here to listen/watch if you'd like
The lyrics speak of wanting to see only one thing: God - the fullness of God, everything that He is and nothing that He isn't.  About Him being my best thought. About His presence being my light no matter the dark circumstances surrounding me. About Him being my wisdom, my great Father, the inheritance I long for more than any riches that I will receive from my earthly dad.  This hymn invites God to be first in my heart, to be my true treasure, my victory won.  And it ends with a simple, yet unbelievably challenging, line to say with an honest heart before Him: 
Whatever befall, still be my vision.
Whatever befall.  Can you say that honestly - with no reservation? Nothing held back?  I'm not sure that I can at all times.  But what I am beginning to realize is that I want to be able to do that at a moment's notice, with a pure heart.  I want to be able to stand honestly before My Father and say to Him that You are all that I need. That Your face is all that I need to see. That I trust You with my life and with my death - whenever and however that will be.  I want to say to Him that, if I am kept without a clear window to my physical condition from now until next month or the month after that or the year after that, that I will be satisfied with knowing that  You are all I need to see.  
Lord, this my vision.  All that I see.
So, what do I do for the next 28 days until my return to Roswell?  
I wait. 
And I sing that song.  
And I keep my eyes fixed on Christ.
And I trust in the One who created me, the One who loves me, dreams over me, the One who sees me.
Oh, and I get to go one a fun little trip to Aspen with my darling husband in a few weeks. (No skiing for me this year, but other adventures await, I'm sure)  :)
Good night, my friends...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tonight...I'm Home

Hi all...
Let me just say that today wasn't a day that I really want to repeat any time soon.  Although I don't know the results of either one of my tests, they were both not fun (surprise!) so I'm glad they're both over.   
I began my day with a Gyn ultrasound.  (I won't go into any more details than that other than to say what woman wants to do that 3 days before Christmas!) And I ended my day with an MRI which took over 1 1/2 hours to do.  Poor Chad, sitting in the waiting room without a functioning Blackberry.  Wait...what about poor Kristie?  Oh yes, that's right...I wasn't exactly lying on the beach reading a good book.  No...picture being totally still inside a small tube that makes some crazy, crazy loud noises for 90 minutes.  No twitching, no coughing, no talking, no singing and certainly no stretching.  However, they do pull you out of the tube - you can't move however - to inject some contrast solution into a mini-IV they put in your arm. That was a nice break.    When they finally shut off the machine and pulled the ear plugs out of my ears, I realized that I had just gained a deeper appreciation for construction workers who use jackhammers all day long. 
So that was the not-so-great part of my day.
Want to hear the great part? 
You. Yep, you all floored me again.
My email last night wasn't intended to be a plea for help with Christmas preparations.  It was meant to just say, I DON'T WANT TO BE AT ROSWELL 4 days before Christmas. 
But when the 40+ emails rolled into my inbox throughout the day, each one with either a word of encouragement or an offer to make cookies, bring dinner, clean my house, wrap my presents, stuff my Christmas card envelopes...
But when I found out that someone was going to come over to watch my kiddos tonight so that I didn't have to go to Roswell by myself as I thought I would have to...
But when I got home at 8 PM tonight and someone had broken into my house to deliver a coffee cake...
But when I checked my voice mail and heard the news that a contingent of people are bringing me dinner, breakfast, treats, snacks...
But when Chad came home with two huge plates of Christmas cookies and an offer to bring dinner in the next day from a friend...
But when several people offered to watch my kiddos so that I can have some more time to prepare...
...But when all these things happened, I was truly floored.  In all honesty, I am embarrassed that I complained in my email.  And I am humbled that people who are just as busy - if not even busier - than I would prioritize loving me and my family.  And I am even more overwhelmed with how well the Lord is taking care of us through you. 
So, here's what I want you to know:  while you all cannot fix this, you are absolutely demonstrating to me the power of active love - whether that's measured by cookies baked or prayers prayed or words spoken or hugs given.    Whether you realize it or not, you are neon signs pointing me to my Heavenly Father...who is the Only One who can set all things right, who is the Only One who can go into the MRI tube with me, who is the Only One who is wise enough to guide us through this difficult chapter in our life's journey with Him.  
Where would I be without Him?  Without you?
And that, my friends, is what makes a hard day not quite so hard.
And that's what makes a day that - on one hand I don't want to repeat - go down in the record books as a good day.
And that's what makes the tears flow for good reasons down my cheeks.
Grateful.  That's about all I can say. Grateful.
With love,

Last Night...

Hi all.
Just a quick request for prayer...
I'm the lucky one who gets to go to Roswell twice tomorrow.  Once in the AM for a routine Gyn exam/ultrasound and once at 5 PM for an MRI of my back.  The MRI is a follow-up from my appointment a couple of weeks ago. I've never had an MRI of my back and they're doing it to get another type of image so that they can better assess whether or not the increased activity that showed up on both my CT and Bone Scans is due to tumor flare or to a progression of disease.  I won't get the results until the 28th (when I go in for more blood work and my next injections).
So, let's see...Christmas cards aren't done.  Presents aren't wrapped.  Baking isn't done.  House isn't clean.  Meals aren't planned...
The perfect time of the year to spend several hours at Roswell, don't ya think?!?
Thanks, friends...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Today - End of The Day

Sorry this update is so long in coming.  Came home from my appointment to a major snow storm and no power.   Now, power is back on, kids are playing in the snow and I have a couple of minutes to update you. summary...for Laura it was a good day all around. The doctor is pleased that, after taking out the tumors and doing an examine of the outside of the organs in her abdominal cavity (including "washing" them and dong the pathology on the cells from that washing), no evidence of cancer was found.   She is feeling pretty good and doesn't have to see him again for 6 weeks.  Great news!
For's a mixed bag.   My tumor markers are good and the spots in my lungs are the same.  The problem is my bones.  My scans (both CT and bone) show more "light spots."  One explanation is that this is a progression of my disease (i.e., the Tamoxifen isn't working any longer).  The other explanation is that, no, the medicine is working, but this is the last bit of tumor flare that first appeared back in June and, thus, it's actually bony turnover or evidence that my bones are healing.  My doctor's gut feel is that it's tumor flare. However, she doesn't want to keep me on Tamoxifen any longer in case she's wrong.  The good news is that she has recommended that I go on another, just-as-effective-if-not-more-effective-than Tamoxifen anti-estrogen treatment (Femora).  This means that I continue with basically the same pill a flashes...but NO CHEMO.  I will start taking this daily pill tonight and will continue for probably 2 months before I have to be scanned again. 
So...the best medicine has to offer is still an incomplete picture. 
In some ways that's super frustrating and in other ways it just makes it even more clear that there still is only One in whom it makes any sense to place my hope, my trust and my future.   Oh that I can keep my eyes focused on Him...
Thanks for your prayers today.  As hard as it was for Chad and I to wait 2 hours (1+ of those hours were actually in the exam room after hearing that, "the report from my scans isn't great, but Dr. O'Connor is consulting with the radiologists to see how she's going to interpret these results...she'll be in with you as soon as she can." How hard was that?!?)  it was just fabulous to know that we were not "alone" in that room.
Love to you all


Hi there.  Just a quick request for prayer...
Both Laura and I have doctor's appointments today at 10 (ish).  (Nice that we coordinate our schedules for you all, eh?  Actually, it wasn't planned that way...)
Laura's following up with her oncologist. Probably a quick appointment as she's feeling pretty gosh darn good after her surgery a couple of weeks ago, but it is still challenging to step foot into a cancer center even for just a meeting with doctor. 
And for me...I had a bone scan and a CT scan on Monday and will get the  results of those today.  I am a bit worried as they had to take "extra pictures" with the bone scan.  If everything looks the same/better than my last scans in August, then the course of treatment stays the same.  If not, it's probably chemo.  Obviously, my choice is to keep going with the current treatment plan; call me crazy, but I kind of like having hair and not feeling nauseous.  
So...if you have a moment this morning, would you just pray for peace and joy for both of us as we wait and as we hear what the doctors have to say?  Knowing that there are prayers being said over us is more comforting and powerful and we're so grateful to you for standing in this gap for us.  
I'll update you (a short one this time, I promise!) after I get home later this afternoon.
Thanks much,

Past Updates - November 22

I have a new friend. I've only seen her once and have just spoken to her twice, but she has profoundly impacted me.  Her name is Sandy and she has Stage IV cancer and it's raging in her body.   During our second phone conversation a few weeks ago, she shared with me that she can feel new tumors popping up under her skin every day.  Through tears she said, "Kristie, I think I'm dying and I don't know what to do."
I was silent. I didn't have words. 
Oh the textbook answers are there.  They are. They are and I believe them to be true and wonderful and hope-filled.  And, thankfully, she believes them too.  She knows where she will be the moment her eyes close this side of heaven.   She also knows the God who promises to never leave us, no matter what. 
But, I didn't get the sense that she was asking me for a reminder of all the things that the Bible says about Heaven and God and Jesus.  I got the sense that she was asking me...
How do I know that it's time to realize that God's plan for my life is for me to die soon?  
How do I prepare my husband?
How do I tell my two, sweet little girls that Mommy's not going to be greeting them when they get off the bus? 
How can I not be afraid of the process of dying?
How can I possibly be okay with the pain and agony of watching my body break down before my eyes?
Do I spend my last days preparing for my death by getting my bills in order, my photo organized, my good-byes said or do I spend my last days continuing to focus on living?
How do I know what it will be really like and how can I make that be "enough" for me?
I was silent.  Oh, I mumbled some textbook things and tried not to be all "Pollyanna" on her; that's not real.   But, really, when all was said and done, I didn't know how to answer her questions.   I still don't know how to answer her questions.
For a couple of weeks I told myself that I didn't need to answer them because I'm not staring death in the face today.  Perhaps later.  But not today. 
Then two things happened. 
One is that I realized that....wait for it...I will die someday (the insights I have are astounding aren't they?!?!). Whether from cancer or from being a 95 year-old wrinkled-beyond-wrinkled lady who goes to sleep and doesn't wake up the next morning (but who has perky boobs, by the way), I will die some day.  The second thing was a friend sent me a link to an article a guy named John Piper wrote a few years ago on the eve of his surgery for prostate cancer.  The article is entitled, "Don't Waste Your Cancer"  In one section, here's what he writes:
"You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death. We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.
I know. I know.  Not exactly the "Happy Thanksgiving" message that you wanted to read.  Actually, not at all the "Happy Thanksgiving" message that I wanted to send.  So we're even.  But I can't get this off my mind.  And when I can't get something off my mind, I'm realizing that's one of the ways that I am being prompted to share with you. 
Happy Thanksgiving?
Yes.  Happy Thanksgiving. 
I treasure you all. 
P.S. Next Monday, I go in to Roswell for a CT scan and a bone scan and then get the results on Wednesday (12/1).  I would covet your prayers...I'm feeling pretty good...just a bit achy and a bit frustrated that I can't do much physical exercise without feeling as if I were run over by a small truck.  Thankfully, just a small truck!  

Past Updates - November 14

It's amazing how things can change within hours. 
On Thursday night, Chad and I (and, because of a babysitting snafu, the kids too) headed to Rochester so Chad could speak at a Young Life Fundraising banquet.   For those of you who don't know, it was through Young Life that I started on my faith journey.  I was 15 years old and, because some cute older boy had invited me, I went to my first Tuesday night YL Club - a crazy, fun, and still after all these years hard to describe, night in which high school kids are packed into somebody's living room or basement and do crazy skits, sing songs and get the opportunity to learn about God, Christ and what that all might mean for them.  
Each Tuesday at the end of Club, Mike O'Leary would stand up, open his Bible and share an account from the life of Christ. He did it in such a way that made the Bible come alive - which, to be honest, was a shocker to me because I had always thought the Bible was some boring, old, and not-at-all-applicable-to-my-life book that sat on coffee tables or bookshelves in people's homes.  I sit here with a little smile on my face when I think about how I used to view the Bible because, twenty-three years later, it still comes alive for me.  It's never meant to gather dust.  It's never meant to be showpiece on a coffee table that gets picked up only when tidying the house or if you need a flat surface to write on. 
So, as you can imagine, going to a YL banquet and seeing the current high school kids share both the fun/funny side of YL and the serious, change-your-life-forever side of YL, means something to me.  It's like coming home in a way.   It makes me remember both what it was like to navigate the challenges of high school and it helps me to see how faithful God has been to me over the past twenty-three years, since the moment when I looked up into the starry night's sky on a warm summer night in the Adirondack Mountains and told God that I needed Him and that I would commit my life to following Him.
It also reminds me of Laura and the way that God started a friendship between us that has now lasted almost 30 years.  I called her on our drive back to Buffalo.  In part to see how she was feeling as she had had some stomach pain a few days prior, but really more so to hear about the now-funny-but-not-at-that-time-funny story of how her 8-year old, Sarah, threw up at the nail salon that afternoon.  I laughed as she said to me, "You don't really realize how small those little cotton ball trash cans that sit on the manicurist's table are until you try to have your daughter throw up in one."    As we hung up, I told her that I'd call her after she and John returned from the wedding they were attending over the weekend in   Indianapolis. 
Instead, at 10:30 AM the next morning, John called from Laura's cell phone. Laura was in the Emergency Department with severe abdominal pains. He said he'd call back as soon as they knew more.  He called a couple of hours later and I packed my suitcase, hopped in the car, and drove back to Rochester praying that I would get there before they wheeled her into surgery to remove the tumors that were causing her so much pain.   The conversation between God and me during that drive was brutally honest.  As I drove I poured out my heart to Him, prayed fervently for my friend, told Him my fears, asked Him hard questions, praised His name, and sat quietly and listened.  I even sang worship songs so loudly that I probably violated the noise disturbance laws had I not been flying down the Thruway.  
From this point, it's hard to know what to tell you.  I could tell you that it was incredibly challenging to see her in so much pain.  I could also tell you that it was incredibly surprising the amount of laughter took place while we all waited for her to go in to surgery as well as while we waited for the surgeon to come out and tell us how the operation went.  And, of course, I could tell you, play-by-play, all that occurred from the time I got there in the early afternoon until when I left to go to my parents' house to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. 
But other than telling you that, thankfully, Laura's tumors were able to be removed without complications (don't tell her that I said that; after all, she's the girl with the 10" incision running down her belly!) and she's doing pretty well, I guess the main reason that I want to share all this with you is because of this:
You know what Laura and I did for about an hour in her hospital room on Saturday morning?  We had Bible Study.  Just two girls: one who looks sick and one who doesn't, but is.  Just two girls:  one who was dressed in jeans and a sweater and one who was wearing lovely hospital gowns with tubes running in all different directions.  Just two girls:  one who has three children who need their Mama and one who has two kiddos who need their Mommy.  What did we do the first time we had any time alone with each other?  She picked up her iPad. I went "old school" and opened an actual Bible and we took a look at two different passages in Scripture. 
We talked about 1 Samuel 1 &2 and what it was like to be Hannah, the barren woman who wanted desperately to see her dream of being a mom come to fruition.  A woman who lays her heart bare before Her God and tells Him her burden.  A woman who makes a costly vow: If You give me a baby, I'll give him back to You so he can serve You wholeheartedly his entire life.  A woman who prays joyfully, not on the day that she conceived and then gave birth to that baby boy, but rather on the day she fulfills her end of her vow and gives her son to live out the plan God intends for him - a plan that doesn't include Hannah being by his side every day to care for him and love on him. 
We talked about John 9 and the man born blind and how Jesus spit on dirt and placed mud on his eyes and told him to "Go and wash it in the Pool of Siloam so that you'll be able to see."  And the man did.  What was that like for him?  He didn't even know who Jesus was.  All he knew at the point was that Jesus was a man.  But he obeyed this Man's command and did something that seemed unbelievably foolish to those around him.  Wash mud off your eyes in a pool and then you'll see?  Really.  That's ridiculous.  At the command of some guy? You mean to tell me that you're placing your hopes of being able to be healed on this crazy suggestion?  Yes.  He did.  And, guess what?  He was.   Only later, through the course of time, did he come to a more complete understanding of Jesus - that He didn't come only to give this man sight, but He came to give him life.  We talked about how we have incomplete understanding of things, but we're still called to be obedient to what we know. Even if it seems crazy to those around us.
We sat across from one another - in some ways, like we've done time and time again over the years and, in other ways, unlike any other time in our long history together - and we read Scripture, shared what hit us, and marveled at the work of Our Lord...both back in the times that those words were originally written and in the freshness of today when those words were needed to encourage us and teach us and minister to us.
Does that surprise you?
It kinda surprised me.  I would have thought we would have done a lot more crying, a lot more "I don't understand", a lot more "oh my goodness, what lies ahead for us."   We didn't.  And it wasn't because we thought we shouldn't.  No, rather, it was because we were overwhelmed by the goodness of God:  His timing (one day later and she would have been on a plane or in a far away city dealing with this); the way He directed her to stop chemo last week (if she had had her treatment as planned, her cell counts would have been dangerously low to weather such an invasive surgery); His great love that is poured out from those who know Him; the changes that we're seeing in people we love.  
Sitting in Room 2857 at Rochester General Hospital on a sunny Saturday morning and we were overwhelmed by the goodness of God.  Impossible, but true. 
Needless to say, I am so thankful for 20 plus years ago...for a cute boy's willingness to invite me, for Mike O'Leary and his lovely wife Carol's willingness to invest in me, for a best friend's willingness to stick by me, for a Savior's willingness to die on a Cross for me.   
Good stuff, my friends. Good stuff.'s time for bed for this tired girl.  A peaceful evening to you all,
Much love,

Past Updates - October 16

For those of you who have emailed me to see if you missed an update, you have not.  My apologies for not updating you sooner. I would love to tell you that I haven't written because not much has changed in my medical situation (which is true at this 9 am hour).  Or, I'd love to tell you that I haven't written because I haven't had the time to write.  But the truth is that - while I'm certainly not sitting around and twiddling my thumbs - I haven't made the time to write.   Oh I've thought about it; in fact, virtually every day for the past month, I have thought about providing an update.  And after about 15 days or so of waking up and saying to myself, "Today, I will let people know what's going on" and then not choosing to do that, the light bulb went off and I started to ask myself why that was. 
I think I've figured it out. 
You'll be surprised when I tell you.  In fact, you'll be so surprised that you'll think that I have an advanced degree in wisdom when I tell you.
Why I haven't wanted to write is because I don't want to be a cancer patient.
Shocking to anyone?  Probably not.  Are you saying to yourself, "Wow.  She's really insightful. Never saw that one coming."  Okay, I get it;. It sounds like a "duh" statement.  But it was a pretty powerful moment for me so let me take a second to share a bit more about what I mean by it.
I could literally spend all day being a cancer patient.  And I don't mean that in a bad way.  By "being a cancer patient" I don't mean that I could spend all day going to the doctor, researching medical stuff, wallowing in the hardship of this - being fearful, being sad, being depressed or anxious or focused solely on the aches and pains.  No,  that's not it (although I do have some of those moments!). Rather, it means that I could spend all my waking minutes, outside of being a wife and a mother, in front of my computer both responding to the hundreds of emails of encouragement from you all (THAT I LOVE TO RECEIVE!) or writing about the many cool God moments - as well as some of the heart-wrenchingly hard moments - of this journey in the hopes that you will get a both a deeper glimpse of the Lord as well as perhaps some insight into what it's like to navigate the many challenges of living with disease.
But, I haven't done that. And, up until last night, what I'd been telling myself is that I can't do that because I'm way more than a cancer patient.  Cancer doesn't define me.  And that's true and it's wonderful to know that, despite my illness, God hasn't released me from the things that He called me to do before finding out about the return of my cancer.  I'm still a bible study leader for a couple of groups, I'm still a volunteer for On the Job Ministries in the city of Buffalo, I'm still a neighbor, a non-participating PTO mom, a new puppy owner, a mini-van driving chick with a blonde pony tail that's a bit too long for her 38 years of life.  I've told myself that I can't live as a cancer patient because I'm more than a cancer patient.
See how good I can make it sound?  Sounds like a perfectly good way of looking at my situation, right?  Perhaps even a godly way of looking at my situation? 
Right.  But also wrong.  Because by stopping at this "logic", I also stopped before I hit an underlying truth:  I don't want to be a cancer patient.  I would much rather look normal, feel normal, act normal. I would much rather hear about your troubles and share the hope of Christ with you than to have you listen to my troubles. I would much rather think of myself as a girl whose bones ache and who cannot run than a girl who has a very, very serious illness.  
But, the problem is that even though I don't want to be a cancer patient, I am a cancer patient.  At least for today.   
In my heart of hearts, of course I know this.  I have thoughts and prayers that are all centered on this very aspect of me.  But I think where it's most impacted me is that I don't really want YOU to think of me as "Kristie, the cancer patient."  Oh, I know, you'll say to me in your replies..."I don't think of you as that." But I don't think you're being 100% truthful when you say that.  I think that You, just like me, YOU don't want me to be a cancer patient either.  
And I love you for that. 
And such a huge part of me wants to keep it that way; after all, I am more than cancer. 
But what I've realized in the last 24 hours is that I cannot run away from this title.   It follows me wherever I go whether I want to name it or pay it any attention.  And, in response,  I have two choices today: (1) either deny it and live in this half-place of being a cancer patient, but hating every minute of it; or (2) embrace it.  I choose the latter.  Why?
Because (and here's the exciting and fabulous and hope-giving and joy-flowing news to which the corners of your mouth should begin to curl into a smile) if I don't embrace this title with two hands, I cannot fully give that title over to the Lord for Him to fully use it, fully be present in it, fully redeem it,  and even fully heal it.   
I don't think I'm alone in this.  I know that most of you aren't in a battle against cancer, but some of you are battling a title that you wish you didn't have either.  Tears flow down your face when you think of how much you wish your journey didn't include the stop that you're on.  Your heart breaks.  You mind dwells on the "I-wish-it-were-different" thoughts.  Your spirit wrestles with God. I know what this is like.
But perhaps my seemingly "duh" moment has also hit you and you realize that you've been doing everything about your unwanted title, but embracing it - not so you wallow in it and be defeated by it, but rather so that you can fully surrender it.  Surrender it so that the power of the living God can work out His perfect purpose in it.  Perhaps there's a need to lift your eyes to the Lord and say, "Father, for today, you have placed me here.  I embrace this title that I haven't wanted to embrace.  I embrace, Lord God, so that I can lay it at the feet of Jesus so He can both save me from it and redeem it for a purpose beyond what I can see.  Today I embrace it so that I can, with both hands, place it at the foot of the Cross where You did the unfathomable for me...where you know what it felt like to have a task that required tears of blood in order to fully accomplish.  You embraced your painful role as Savior so that I can be free to come boldly into the powerful presence of the Holy God -  wholly loved and wholly accepted.  Today, Lord God, today I surrender to you." feels good to share this with you. 
Love to you all,

Past Updates - September 8

Hi all...
Just a quick note asking for your prayers this morning for Laura and myself.   
For Laura....Right after she puts her two older kids on the bus for their first day of school, she goes in for her next chemo.  In addition, she'll meet with her doctor to discuss her  treatment plan.   
For Me...I go in this morning to meet with my oncologist to find out the results of my bone and CT scans that I had last week. 
We would both covet your prayers for protection of our minds, our spirits and our bodies.
I've been reading a compilation of sermons from Charles Spurgeon, the famous British preacher from the 1800's.  It's been both inspiring and challenging and there's a quote that I wanted to share:
Why does a boy trust his father?  You and I know a little more about his father than he does, and yet we do not rely upon him quite so implicitly. But the reason the child trusts his father is that he loves him. Blessed and happy are they who have a sweet faith in Jesus, intertwined with deep affection for Him. They are charmed with His character and delighted with His mission. They are carried away by the lovingkindness that He has manifested, and now they cannot help trusting Him because they so much admire, revere and love Him. It is hard to make you doubt a person whom you love...I would rather be a child again than to grow perversely wise.  Faith is to be a child toward Christ, believing in Him as a real and present person who at this very moment is near us and ready to bless us...Faith takes Christ at His word.
Oh Lord, let me have the faith to take You at Your Word.
I'll keep you posted...

Past Updates - August 12

The cost of one menopause pill if I didn't have insurance would be $3700.
Congrats to Holly Nelson and Susan Utz for coming in the closest at $3500! I wish I had a prize for you.  Someone suggested the prize is that you get a pill too. Why is it that I'm pretty certain you'd turn down that prize?!? 

Past Updates - August 11

Where do I begin?!? 
I guess the punch lines: 
Laura's endoscopy of her stomach showed cancer cells still remaining. 
My tumor markers are normal so it looks like the treatment plan is having a positive effect. 
Now a bit more details...
On are her words from her CaringBridge website:
Hello family and friends,
Unfortunately, the results of the endoscopy were not what I had hoped for. The biopsies showed a fair amount of scar tissue along with a few malignant cells.   I received this information in a phone message since my GI and oncologist are both on vacation (what do they think, it's summer?!) so I have questions for both of them when they get back in the next few days.
Certainly a few is better than a lot- for that I am thankful. I am also so grateful that I serve a God who is far bigger than my circumstances and has a far greater plan than mine (even though I often struggle to remind myself of this because I am a darn good planner!).  I will rest in His promises and will trust in His plan. And, I will take each day as it comes, appreciating each and every one.  And, I will hope, hope, hope that He will declare, Enough!- and restore to health my body and Kristie's body one day very soon.

Thank you for your prayers- keep them coming.
On Me...The not-so-good surprise today came with her more thorough explanation of tumor flare and what is probably really going on in my body.  In essence, there is cancer all throughout my spine, sternum, hips, pelvis, ribs, etc and not just in my left hip/femur.  The reason it wasn't seen on the first bone scan in May was probably because it was too small. The Tamoxifen and menopause pill (BTW guesses are still coming in as to how much it costs so I'll reveal the final answer and the winner in the next day or so!) have caused a temporary activation of those cells and so they can now be seen on a bone scan. 
Fabulous news, right?  Hmm not so much....
The good news is that it appears - because my tumor markers are normal - that the Tamoxifen is working to control the cancer in all those places. She isn't certain about the fact that I have pain in my bones in places where I didn't have pain back in May, but the hypothesis we're working under right now is that the pain is actually due to bony turnover, or the beginnings of healing in my bones.  This hypothesis will be tested next month when I get another bone scan. If the scan looks worse than it did last month, then we have a problem. If it looks about the same, then we keep with the current treatment plan.
So, I'm doing pretty well. Laura's doing pretty well. Both of us are wondering why. 
No, we know why.
She says it best...we serve a God far bigger than our circumstances...

Past Updates - August 10

Just a quick little note with three updates (not a novel this time, I promise!!)
#1:  Thanks to all of you who have prayed/are praying for Laura. Her CT scan was clear!  However, she is still waiting on the pathology results from her endoscopy (during which multiple samples are from her stomach to be biopsied).  She thought she'd have the results by now so the waiting is a bit challenging, but she's hanging in there.  She's amazing, that girl.
#2  I'm headed to Roswell tomorrow for blood work and an appointment with my oncologist.  If my blood work/tumor markers are normal again this month like they were in July, then I believe that I will just receive my next "menopause pill" injection into my belly and an infusion of a bone strengthening agent.  My body - especially my back - is still sore (I'm assuming it's due to tumor flare) so I'm sure we'll be discussing what, if anything, can be done to get rid of this pain without compromising my treatment plan. 
#3  I started running!  Although I'm only able to do 2 miles at a time (so far!), it feels absolutely GREAT to do this again.  Feeling sweaty because of working out my body rather than because of hot flashes is a marvelous thing!  In fact, the first time I ran 1/2 mile, I started crying when I was done because I was just so thankful. The funny part was that I was at my parents' cottage at the lake and I saw their neighbor as I just crossed my "finish line."  I said through happy tears, "I didn't think I'd get to run!"  He said with a confused-but-trying-not-to-be-impolite look on his face, "Yes, it is a bit hot out this morning."   Hmm...I guess he doesn't know about my diagnosis!  I just smiled and walked into the cottage and started hootin' and hollerin' with my family.  I can't imagine what he thought when he heard the shouts from our cottage...that girl must really like to run! :)
Enjoy your evening....
P.S. Have a quiz for you all: How much do you think it costs (if I didn't have insurance, that is) for the one tic-tac sized menopause pill that I get every month - just the one pill, not the nurse or the other things that are required to administer it?  (If I've already told you, you're not allowed to guess!) 

Past Update - August 4

Hi all...
Had a great time of prayer last night with Laura and others in Rochester before she went to meet with her oncologist today to discuss her future treatment options (for Stage IV gastric cancer) as well as what immediate steps should be taken. Although I'm sure she'll provide a more detailed update on CaringBridge later today(www.caringbridge/visit/laurarider) the outcome of that meeting is that her next treatment has been pushed off until she has an endoscopy and CT scan, hopefully tomorrow and Friday.   
While it is always so good to be together with my best friend (we've been best friends for 28 years!), it is such a reminder of the difficult, complex journey we're both on.  Over the course of the past year since her diagnosis, we've asked many questions - sometimes once, sometimes a thousand times.  On some we've gained insight and for others the answers are still unknown.   And, as you might imagine, sometimes having unanswered questions is really hard. It can challenge you to your core and tempt you to focus on the lack of an answer versus enable you to keep your focus on the many, many ways your faith in a loving, good, powerful and ever-present God is affirmed on a daily basis. 
A few weeks ago in my own journey with cancer, I experienced a day where the problem seemed so big, the answers seemed so unknowable, where the hope of Christ was elusive to me.  Although I knew the hopelessness I was feeling wasn't true, the reality is that I felt alone, scared, worried, in despair, without a felt sense of His presence.  Chad and I both sobbed on our bed as we contemplated what might lie ahead.  It was a terrible place to be. It gave me just a glimpse of what it's like to try to navigate the many challenges of disease without having a Lord and Savior who is above, beyond and, at the same time, intimately in the middle of my difficult circumstances.  
I have often said over the past several weeks that I have a problem to which there is no good human answer; that is, no doctor, no medical treatment, no loved one, no friend, no pastor, no nutritional and/or exercise plan is the ultimate answer to my problem.  Because, as much as my problem is medical, it is way beyond just medical.   I have cancer, but I am not cancer. I am way more than cancer; I am a whole person with emotions, thoughts, and spiritual needs that are complex and deep and unyielding and hard to define.   
So, while doctors and medicine may be able to keep my cancer "controlled", they cannot even come close to coming up with the answer to what I can do when I feel in despair, when I feel alone, when I think about the hard things that may be ahead and I get scared, when I wonder who will love my children as much as I do if I'm not around to care for them, when I wonder "what's the purpose of my life".
No well-grounded eating plan, no amount of positive attitude, no amount of exercise can give me enough control over this situation so that I can overcome it.  I can eat blueberries, guzzle green tea, and fill my body with only organic, whole foods until the proverbial cows come home and it is not a sure-fire way to beat this disease.   These steps, while no doubt good for me, cannot restore my life. They cannot give me rest. They cannot bring joy and peace.  They cannot give me the freedom to lay on the grass, stare up at the sky and know that things are just as they should be.
And, while you - my precious friends and family - can encourage me, cheer me on, remind me of truth, extend love to me, lift me in prayer...even you cannot take this away.  You, on your own power, cannot take this away.
For one day a couple of weeks ago I became completely overwhelmed with the size of my problem and the woeful inadequacies of solutions the world has to offer.  I kept looking around, frantically, for someone to be able to say yes to my desperate questions, "Can you take this away?  Can you fix this? Can you tell me that this will end the way that I want it to end?  Can you tell me that I won't have to endure more physical pain?  Can you tell me what will happen next?"
Silence.  The best the world has to offer was totally silent.
I am immeasurably thankful that, in this dark moment, my husband sent out an email to an audience way beyond who I thought he would and asked for prayer for me.  I am immeasurably thankful and so incredibly humbled that a group of people prioritized coming out to a last minute time of prayer for me at my church (and, even more replied and told us that, while they couldn't be physically present, that they would be lifting us in prayer wherever they happened to be that evening).  I am immeasurably thankful that, when I couldn't see through the darkness around me, that those who could see, chose to stand in the gap for me. 
They didn't judge me. They didn't make me feel embarrassed by the constant tears flowing out of my "I hate to cry" eyes.  They didn't do anything but love me, remind me of what I know to be true, and talk to Our God on my behalf.  They challenged me to release my children to the care of the Lord and wept with me as I sobbed my way through a time when I visualized placing my kids in the arms of Christ and affirming that they are, first and foremost, His children.  They boldly asked for God to heal my body from this disease and specifically that "there would be another explanation" for what the scary things I saw on my bone scan that day.  They spoke truth to me that joy will be coming, that His grace is sufficient, that His presence is perceivable, that He alone starts and He alone finishes my faith. They even admitted that they had moments when they wanted to be "selfish friends" and keep me around on earth for a long time.     
The darkness lifted.  His face was seen. Hope returned. 
It was glorious.
It was not silent.
It was the "Yes" that I had so desperately needed to hear. 
And it changed everything.
Why am I telling you this?  Well, for one, it's long overdue.  I was supposed to tell you a couple of weeks ago, but didn't know how.  Still not sure I've fully captured it all; in fact, I'm sure that I haven't.  But, I'm also telling you this because Laura needs for you to know it too.
Her battle is hard this week.  She's having an endoscopy and CT scan in the next two days that have been ordered by her doctor to reveal why her stomach hurts again.   Based on those tests, he will make a recommendation as to her treatment plan.  The tests are not easy to take, the waiting for the results is not easy to do, the currently unanswered questions to Our God are challenging to say the least.
While she isn't in despair like I was a few weeks ago, she is weary from the battle and perplexed as to what it all means.  And, just as I needed you all a few weeks ago (and will need you're help again, I'm sure) she needs you today.  Would you please take some time today and in the next few days to - either for the first time or for the thousandth time - stand in the gap for her by lifting her before the Father in prayer asking for His wisdom and His presence to be known above all else?  
With love and deep appreciation for you,