Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Update #81 - Part A and B

Part A From This Morning:

Going to Roswell at 10 AM today for a brain MRI. Since Tuesday, I've been having buzzing in my head (like ringing in the ears).  Could be a side effect of the new chemo.  Could be brain lesions. Could be something inconsequential.  Yes, if you're thinking that's a wide range of explanations, you would be correct!  I will be called later today with the results and will be back in touch when I do. 

Thanks all,

Part B From This Afternoon:

It's still a mystery.

My MRI is relatively unchanged from my last one a few weeks ago. However, there's some potential that there's cancer in the lining of my brain near my ear canal.  It's very inconclusive.  So, the neuro-radiologist and my oncologist recommend that I have a lumbar tap to extract the fluid to see if there are cancer cells present.  If there are…well...hat's a really hard thing.  If there are not, then my oncologist really doesn't know why I'm having these symptoms and we'll have to cross that bridge (PLEASE LET ME HAVE TO CROSS THAT BRIDGE!) when we get there. 

So…next step is a lumbar puncture on Thursday morning at 8:30.  I'm just getting poked and prodded like crazy, aren't it? And I thought my week would be a quiet week…

My sister's church in Pittsburgh sent me this awesome hand-written card this past week.  In it, they copied for me an excerpt from a devotional called, Our Daily Bread.  It said, "God becomes a reality when He becomes a necessity."  

God became a reality for me when I was just 16 years old.  When I  - with all my smarts and capabilities - thought that I had life all figured out and then I realized that I really didn't.  When I started to understand that as capable as I was, I just wasn't that good.  Wasn't that powerful. Wasn't that smart.  I needed someone far, far greater than I in order for my life to make sense.  Christ became real to me then because I discovered that I needed Him. 

And that hasn't changed.  
26 years later. 
That hasn't changed.

I am reminded of my great need for Him daily.  
Minute by minute. 
Waiting for the test. Waiting for the phone call. Processing the conversations with doctors. Looking into the faces of my sweet children as I contemplate what to tell them.

What reminds you?  
What reminds you of your need for God?  
What circumstance or relationship difficulty or internal battle presses in on you to gently or loudly tap on your shoulder, reminding you that you are ill-equipped on your own to thrive in your own journey? 

How I hope it's something.
Not because I want you to be facing hard things.  Not. At. All.
But, rather, it's because I am convinced that what we think about God is one of – if not THE - most important things about us. And sometimes we need the unpleasant pressure of hard things to drive away the distractions and the chasings of the wind in order to see clearly our need for the One who created us, who loves us and who has called us to be His own.  

He becomes a reality when He becomes a necessity. 
Love it. 

I'll be back in touch on Thursday or Friday to let you know if the mystery is solved…
Much love to you

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Update #80

Yesterday was my mom's birthday, Chad's mom's birthday, my good friend's birthday and my cousin's birthday (and perhaps even someone else to whom this email is going).

How I wish I had some celebratory news to share, especially with them.
Sadly, that isn't the case.

Despite the chemo treatments I've been on, the cancer continues to progress. [Yes, that means all the nausea this past summer was for naught! A bit frustrating, but I understand that that's just part of the process of dealing with this disease.]

So as scheduled, I will have a chest port installed today around 11 AM and then on Friday I will start a new chemo drug.  This one is given two weeks on, one week off.  To ensure that this medicine is having a positive impact, I will have repeat scans done in just 6 weeks, rather than the typical 3 months.

Oh goody.  
This is so much fun. 

Actually, I'm doing ok. I wasn't blind-sided by this news and that made it a lot easier to hear.  If I had thought that my body was responding beautifully and then heard what I heard yesterday, I would have had a much harder time accepting this.  If my chemo treatments thus far had been a walk in the park without side effects, then I would be scared and sad to move on to a new drug. And, most importantly, if I thought my life was only about living the most number of days, then I would be absolutely traumatized that this news - without God's intervention  to halt and eradicate the cancer in my body - would drastically shorten those days. 

No, these results weren't easy to hear.  Please don't read the above paragraph and think that there were no tears shed, no worries that crossed minds, no apprehensions about the yuckiness of cancer progression.  There were.   But, I also don't want you to think that we measure the goodness of our lives – and more importantly, the goodness of God -  based off of scan results.  I've had enough scan results – both "good" and "bad" results – to tell you that they cannot fully satisfy you (the "good ones), nor can they fully destroy you (the "bad" ones).  

Ooops…just looked at the time.  Gotta go. Off to Roswell.
Hey, at least this time this surgery ADDS something to my body, rather than takes something away from it!  :)

Much love and thankfulness for you,

Friday, September 12, 2014

Update #79 - Scans Today

Well… I don't have to get my chemo treatment today as this is my "rest" week.  That's a heehaw.
BUT…I do need to have scans done today to see if/how my body has responded to this lovely chemo regiment. 
On Wednesday, I'll get the results.  

Then on Thursday - unless I get an ALL CLEAR report (to which I would fall on my face in amazement, thankfulness, and shock) - I will be having a procedure to implant a port in my chest so that I don't have to keep getting chemo through my hand and it's tired-of-being-poked veins. Although there is a great benefit of not feeling the pain of a needle digging around in your hand trying to capture less-than-cooperative veins, I am not happy about having a chest port installed and predict that that will be a tough, emotional thing for me.  

Yet another outward and "permanent" symbol of the spoils this disease has taken. 

While I know through Scripture that the spoils cancer has taken are temporary, they are felt deeply by me each day as I live this thing out.  From lack of body parts I once had, to lack of hair I once had, to lack of energy I once had, to lack to activities I once did, to lack of foods I once ate, to lack of pounds I once carried.  Those are losses.  They are felt.  They are difficult to let go of and live contentedly.  Impossible, I would argue, without also knowing the greater truth that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.  

"We don’t give up. Our bodies are becoming weaker and weaker. But our spirits are being renewed day by day. Our troubles are small. They last only for a short time. But they are earning for us a glory that will last forever. It is greater than all our troubles.  So we don’t spend all our time looking at what we can see. Instead, we look at what we can’t see. What can be seen lasts only a short time. But what can’t be seen will last forever."

Here's what I love about this passage:  it's honest.  It says it plainly… "Yep, Kristie, your body is becoming weaker.  But, you are more than your body.  And just because your body is under attack, doesn't mean your spirit has to be too.  Just because your body is becoming weaker, your spirit can be moving in the exact opposite direction – toward great strength.  And those troubles?  Yep, they're troubles alright.  Never want to try to tell you that they're not.  But, Kristie, those troubles are short-lasting in light of eternity.  And they are producing a mighty work.  They are earning you a glory that so far exceeds the trouble."  

And here's what else I love about this passage: The challenge.  The challenge of "so what are you going to do about this?"  So what are you going to do about your body failing at the same time your spirit has the opportunity to soar?  Are you going to spend all your time looking at the deterioration? At your crazy wisps of hair that remain?  Or the numerous scars on your body? Or the shrinking size of your frame? Or even the new bandages for this port that you'll have with you for the next few weeks? Are you going to keep your eyes there?


Are you going to look at the things you can't see, the things of promise included all through Scripture, the encouragement that comes when standing in His light and trading in your sorrows and fears for His love and His power? 

See, it's still about the eyes.  Where my eyes go. Where your eyes go.  Do they fall prey to the loud, flamboyantly-waving arms of the direness of your circumstances?  Do they desperately try to find a sense of peace as they only focus on the swirling, unstable ground those circumstances are creating?  Or do they respond to the strong pull of the loving face of the Savior who speaks grace and peace and joy and truth and power into those circumstances? Who calms, and takes on our burdens, and releases us from darkness, and instills joy? 

How I'd love to tell you that I've gotten this mastered: eyes only on His face.  But that's not true.  But what I can tell you to be true – after living in a pretty rough place for the past three months – is that there is NOTHING good or hope-filled about living with your eyes only on your circumstances.  Been there. Done that. Nothing good comes.  Just grumpiness, bitterness, frustration, and the sense that nothing will ever be okay again.

So, would you pray with me that my eyes – your eyes – be focused on the unseen reality around us?  That we can acknowledge our troubles, but not give them far more power than they are ever intended to have?  That we don't assume that what's happening in our circumstances is what also has to be happening in our spirits?  That we can be renewed powerfully at the exact same time that our bodies and/or our circumstances are falling apart?  

Hard stuff, but important stuff. 

Much love,