Thursday, April 9, 2015

Update #96 - by Chad Rush

It's been 3 weeks since Kristie met Jesus face to face.
I think a lot more about Heaven now than I used to.  I guess it is much more real to me now.
It's been 3 weeks of beginning the new normal.  The days have gone by fast; the nights not so much.
Week 1 was very busy; many people helping out; many details to attend to.
Week 2 was Easter break.  Emilie and Daniel had off from school.  We enjoyed just being together as a family.  They are both doing well.
Week 3 is underway.  This is the week that I would be alone.  House in order...kids in school...alone.

You see, I have thought about and shared with some, that this week, week 3, 2 weeks after Kristie's passing, would be the time that I would wrestle this out with God.

Living life with Kristie; loving her was amazing.
Even over the past year when things got much more difficult and complex, this remained true.
We lived together with such an expectancy for God; for who He was; for what He was doing; to hear Him speak.  Yes, we lived with great anticipation, for God was on the move.
On March 21st, we celebrated her spiritual birthday into eternity.
And we did this well!
God remained good, but so many questions were unresolved.
So yes, this was the week that I would have time to be alone with Him.  Alone to pray.  Alone to cry.  Alone with my questions.  ...alone.

But week 3 arrived differently than I had thought.
A little more than a week ago, a strange thing happened.  I began to realize what I had been saying - who was I to wrestle with God?
I mean, don't get me wrong, my world was rocked and I really wanted to better understand what just happened.
Forgive me God for me wanting to wrestle this out with You.  I know it is me and not You who doesn't understand.
My greatest desire remains You, God.  Lead me to a higher relationship with You.
It was then that I came to realize that it was not me wrestling with God, but that it was He who was initiating with me!  It was He who was asking me this question:
"Were you seeking Me for what I would do for you?  Or were you seeking Me for Me?"
My answer was "both".
I am beginning to understand that if I only see God for what He has done, or can do for me, then He is not big enough.  Then He is not the God of the Bible.

In my quiet time with God yesterday, I read Genesis 32:22-30.

"That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.  After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.  So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."  But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."  The man asked him, "What is your name?"  "Jacob," he answered.  Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."  Jacob said, "Please tell me your name."  But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?"  Then he blessed him there.  So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

Wow!

It was God who wrestled with Jacob.  He was the initiator.  At first glance it may look lie Jacob was trying to force a blessing from God, but read it again.  God fought with Jacob all night, and when daylight came, Jacob looked up and God said, "All right, I have tried.  I am leaving."  "If you don't want my best for you, I'll leave."

I think Jacob must have panicked.  Perhaps for the first time, he saw the value of God and God alone.  He became desperate to stay in His presence and he sought His blessing.
To see the value of God, and of God alone.
This is a tough battle!
How many of us face hard, hard situations.  The death of one we love.  The failure of a relationship.  Hard questions that don't seem to have answers that satisfy us the way we want them, or need them to.

...and the battle line is drawn.  Right down the center of our hearts and our will.

Here is the question:

Am I willing, like Jacob, to be broken by Him?  To live broken for Him?
A broken vessel, being held together by the grip of His hands; filled with His presence; standing in His strength.
We must allow Him to break us so he can make us into conquerors, overcomes, mighty warriors for Him.
That is what I want.
That is what real faith is.
You see, faith is not an intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can't see the way ahead.

I am all in.
Today, tomorrow, for as long as He has for me, until that day when i see Him and Kristie, face to face.

So how am I doing?
He is pulling me forward into a deeper relationship with Him.
Forward to grasp a much larger, grander vision of Him, of Heaven and of His future.
Forward to a deeper faith, a higher hope and a new kind of love.
Forward to a new ground...like Jacob, limping perhaps...but to a higher ground.

How about you?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Update #95 - by Danielle Kader


The day before Kristie went to Heaven I sat around her bed with Chad and their friends Bryan, Kara and Trevor, who also happen to lead worship at their church. They had come that day because in a matter of thirty minutes Bryan and Trevor had written a song for Kristie.  They came as I was about to leave and when she opened her eyes and saw them she said to me, “Don’t you dare leave.” And so, as I had done many times before, I listened to Kristie.

They sang over her (to listen to Kristie's Song click here). We sang over her. Kara prayed over her.  We prayed over her. And we all cried. When the singing was done, Kristie, frail and thin, not able to speak well, strength almost gone, looked at Kara and told her to trade places with Chad, so that Chad would be right next to her. I thought to myself and giggled inside how even though she was weak she was still bossy. Then she told Bryan to switch places with me. We obeyed. And once next to her, she turned her head toward me; eyes still closed, and asked me to tell the story of her daughter, Emilie’s adoption. I looked at Chad a little befuddled, because I wasn’t there. But Kristie insisted saying I had heard the story so many times.

Chad told the story and every now and then Kristie would inject a detail. One of those details was when they picked a name they decided to spell it with an “ie” versus the traditional “y”.  We laughed at some of the problems that causes, like never being able to find a license plate for your bicycle with your name spelled on it.

There was something about this story we were missing and I could sense a slight restlessness about Kristie because of it. Then she said, I’m going to write a book titled, It’s All About the E. I said, “Emilie will always have a piece of you because she has your ie.”  Kristie sat up (as much as she could) and turned her head to look at me, with eyes open wide. Then she lay back down.

See, Emilie and Daniel are adopted. They don’t look like Kristie and Chad. When they were naming Emilie Kristie knew that she would have Chad’s last name and she wanted Em to have a piece of her, hence the spelling of her name, Kristie with an “ie” and Emilie with an “ie”.

Emilie will always have a piece of Kristie. Because of the spelling of her name, but also because for 13 years of her life she has had a mom fully invested in her who loved her well, taught her, and poured into her.

But as I thought about Kristie’s book title I thought about how all who have known her, and even some who don’t, have a piece of her.  Her influence, because she loved Jesus and loved others well, has impacted people. So, it’s all about the “E”. The “E” is what she imprinted on our souls with the way she lived and the way she loved and the way she gave generously.  And even after she left this earth and has gone to Heaven, people are still being impacted.

My story speaks to Kristie’s story and points to God’s story. He is the Author.  My story is a piece of a greater whole. Weave all of these stories together and it starts to get exciting. But still, all point to a greater, wilder, adventure story that the Author is writing. And the stories point to the Author.

The Author is still writing. He is writing His story in your life and in the lives of those around you. God is alive! God is speaking! God is on the move!

Share your story. Email it to chadrush27@gmail.com And please know, this blog will continue. In Kristie’s memory but for Christ’s name, because her story speaks to the greater story that is still being written!

To close I want to share the lyrics that a friend of mine wrote who is in Kristie’s Wednesday night women’s Bible study. May they touch your heart as they do mine.  Remember, there is a better story.  There is an Author. And HE LOVES YOU!

Better Story by Beth Hogenmiller

You write a better story
Better than I could pen
You write a better story
Better than anyone

You are the author
You’ve written all my days
You know each battle that I will face
You come to fight for me, to save me, and win

For You win in life, You win in death
You win right now
You win in the end
You win in death, You win in life
You win right now and in the end

You write lines that make the poets leap
You write songs that swell the seas
You write prose that keeps us on our toes

You wrote down how You treasure me
And You wrote my name
In Your Book of Life
You engraved my name on Your hand
You wrote my days before the world began
Made me a part of Your Greatest Plan

You win in life, You win in death
You win right now
You win in the end
You win in death, You win in life
You win right now and in the end

Take my dim and dreary dreams
Trade them for Your own
Erase my fierce and selfish pride
That I may kneel before Your throne

Burn my pages gingerly
Pry them from my grasp
Replace them with Your artistry
And make my hope be You, at last

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Update #94 - Kristie Rush by Chad


"Kristie, I am going to send out a brief update, is there anything specific that you want me to tell everyone?"

"I'm thirsty."

Thirsty for a big cup of ice water with a green bendy straw.  Thirsty for God to finish the work that He has started in her life and will bring to completion to the glory of His name.

She is thirsty.

Physically her body if failing; the medicine, being given in increasing measure to help her to breathe, is making her sleep more.  

She is at home.  She has a hospice bed in our bedroom.  Our dog Mollie hasn't moved from her side.  

We pray and hope for God to do what He and He alone is able to accomplish.  In her and my lives, and in the lives of Emilie and Daniel.

Please join me in praying that she would hear The Sovereign Lord speak.  

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones.  He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"  I said, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know."  Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones;  I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.'"  
So I prophesied as I was commanded.  And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.  I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'"  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.  (Ezekiel 37:1-10)

Love to you from the Rush family.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Update 93 - Hospice week 5 - from Chad


I wanted to provide a brief update on Kristie.

She has been relatively pain free and has been able to maintain consistency in her medications, food and hydration.  Her biggest struggle remains with her breathing.  This continues to be a challenge and has kept her very immobile over the past week.  There is fluid build up in her lungs and discomfort in her abdomen and that certainly has not been easy to manage.  In addition, her coughing spells have been rough for her.

With the recent changes in her health, I have begun to take some extended time away from work.  I am very thankful for the support of my company and of my coworkers that make this possible.  Because of this, I will be able to have quality time with my family.  Today marked a significant act of courage and leadership…..6 hours with Emilie at the JC Penny Hair Salon!!  We both survived and one of us will never be the same again…

We have been blessed with food and prayer, friends and family, love and support from so many.  Thank you.  Thank you for worshiping while we wait; for persevering in prayer with us and for trusting in a God who is sovereign and more than able.

Love to you all,

Chad

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Update #92 - Urgent Plea


Sometimes a poorly worded, desperate prayer is what God hears from us.

Please pray for Kristie – she has taken a major setback in the past 2 days.  She is having significant difficulties breathing right now and is experiencing tightness and pain in her lungs and in her upper chest.

Ask Him, who gives us our very breath, to literally be the air that she breathes.

It is Him who can and will sustain her.

Also, pray for our children, Emilie and Daniel who are worried and quiet.

Pray also for me, that I would stand and not fall.

Thank you,

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Update #91 1/2 - Pictures Only




















Update #91: Home, Even Sweeter Home


Well…my friends, are you tired of hearing about our crazy trip to Disney yet?

Good.  I won't share anymore stories FROM Disney, but I wanted to share with you our story of coming HOME because it was just as marvelous and unexpected and breath-catching.  

We got up this morning at 3:30 to catch the bus from our resort to the airport.  [Sadly, we had to leave KRUSH (my beloved scooter) behind.  It was a tender moment saying goodbye to her.  You'd be proud of me; I didn't cry as I had to leave her looking lonely next to the bell hop. My only wish for her was that someone else wouldn't treat her as a china doll, but rather as the tough girl that she really is.]

We had a totally uneventful direct flight to Buffalo and landed around 9:30 AM, all prepared to be met by our friend John Moore to drive us home.  As we walked out of the exit hallway, we saw this man holding a sign that said, "Rush Family."  

What is this?!?

Turns out someone sent a limo to the airport to come and get us and take us home!  What??

Kenny Driver (real name - he showed me his driver's license) was a GREAT limo driver and took us to our friends Ryan and Danielle Kader's house where their two year old, Sullivan, explored his first limo.  Sully was excited about the limo, but he was most excited because he just LOVES Buzz Lightyear and, the day before, we emailed a picture of the four of us with Buzz, and Sullivan was now convinced that this new fancy-dancy limo would take him to Buzz and Woody's house.  He was vastly disappointed when we all left their house, taking our dog Mollie Moo, with us and he didn't get go visit Buzz and Woody.  Oops. Sorry, Sullivan.  

Mollie Moo took to the limo like a puppy who has longed for a life of even more leisure and spoiling and, believe it or not, within 30 seconds BOTH she and Emilie were fast asleep and missed the excitement of the entire ride home.   

I then texted my neighbor, Julie, to let her know that we'd be coming by soon in a limo and her three little ones might want to get their coats on to come over and check it out before Kenny Driver had to get to his next job.  

Well…as we pulled into our neighborhood and got closer to our house…it became clear that our time of being TOTALLY spoiled was not yet over!  We pulled up to our house and saw our entire driveway lined with the cutest row of about 20 snowmen you've ever seen. Some of them even fully dressed!  We had snow forts carved into our snow as well as Welcome Home signs painted in the snow and, Chad's favorite, a Snoopy carved on top of his very own house as you'd see in the Peanuts cartoon.  We later learned that some of those friends then circled our home and prayed over us like they did last winter. 

And…within minutes of our arrival we found out who the culprits were who were largely responsible for making this grand surprise happen: Christine and Tracy (who both are/were affiliated with WNY Make-A-Wish and who coordinated puling off this surprise in less than 3 days); Christian (who took all the amazing pictures you'll see; and Julie (our neighbor who loves us well and who knows our garage code!) Not only did they gather neighbors and friends to carve our snowman greeting parade, but they also invited them to FILL OUR HOME to over-flowing with balloons, fun little gifts, and yummy treats all decorated to a Dr. Seuss theme. 

Can you say, "Surprised?!?!?"
While I could say a ton more, the truth is that my mouth is sore from smiling, and my head is sore from shaking it back and forth in disbelief, and my jaw is sore from dropping open in utter amazement, and my brain is sore from trying to wrap itself around all this generosity and lavish love poured out over us by those who love us and love God.   

While I should be embarrassed by all this lavish love, the truth is that – If I'm honest - I have just flourished in receiving it.  It has refreshed my spirit, strengthened my mind, and encouraged my heart to continue to press into Him, trusting Him even more for the steps that lie ahead for our family – whatever those steps may be.  It has been just as great a joy - if not greater - to watch our children (and nephews too) come to understand that, often God calls us to be wise and practical stewards of that which He has entrusted to us and, yet, sometimes He calls us to be almost ridiculous in the extravagance we show in worshipping Him and letting others know that He loves them too.  To watch our kids embrace being delighted has been beyond–fun and a powerful opportunity to speak new truths to them. 

So…to ALL of you who had a hand in either our Disney or our Welcome Home extravagant pouring out of love over our family…whether you ordered a floral arrangement, sent a Valentine's Day card, froze your tushy off making a snowman, lifted us in prayer, encouraged us via a comment on FB or an email note, bought us a silly little gift that made us giggle, or told us in words that you love us…. WE ARE THANKFUL FOR YOU.  So incredibly thankful. You have made these past 8 days unlike NONE other we have experienced.  We will forever be grateful and would love to thank each one of you in person.  In fact, my mother is beside herself wondering how thank you notes will be sent out to each of you!!! (Not gonna happen and I assured her that none of you were in it for the thank you note!)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Update 90 1/2: Pictures Only

Because of technical difficulties (urgh!)...

I couldn't post pictures of some of the gifts that we received on Valentine's Day from friends from Grove City College.  So....you can visit my Facebook page (kristie.rush@facebook.com)  and see a few pictures if you're interested!

Sorry.
Trust me; It's a good thing I don't have much hair because it all would have been pulled out!

(Is that funny? I think it's funny!)

K.


Update #90 1/2: Unparalleled Gifts


Hi friends -


For those of you on Facebook, you have already read this update.  Because of the craziness here at Disney (fabulously easy craziness that is!) of the last few days, I haven't had time to send this out via email as well.  (Normally, I do it the other way around…I email it first, and then post it to my blog, then link it to Facebook).  So…my apologies for the delay in getting this to you.  Further, I am including one picture that shows almost all – but not even close to all – of the gifts that we have received from (mainly) college friends from Grove City College.  I will be posting more pictures (in case you're interested in seeing them) to the blog.  Www.kristierush.blogspot.com  

Here's the much delayed update with my sincere apologies….

Just SOME of the gifts we received...
Back: Jeff & Debbie (Higgs), Chad & Kristie, Bob & Jan (Rich)
From: Matthew, Daniel, Jacob, Andrew, Ryan & Emilie





Ok. So. Saturday was – and still is - just about impossible to grasp.
Please read my Grove City College friend Jennifer Wimer Hill 's post as copied below:

_______
"Having a great Valentine's Day! Yesterday was a hard day. My dear friend Kristie Rich Rush shared the latest update in her 14 year battle with cancer that she had now officially become a hospice patient, and that she and her family were travelling to Disney for a family weekend and wanted our prayers that her body would hold up to the rigors that this would entail. But then, this MAGICAL WAVE started among ALL of our college friends. And out of sadness, a huge display of love was born. A great guy started a group message saying that a fellow graduate was now a VP down at Disney and wanted to help us coordinate a Valentine's explosion of love for the Rush family. This message grew and multiplied, and at my last count there are over 140 people involved in several message groups. Well, we all started calling the Disney resort and arranging for flowers, gifts, snacks, balloons, cards, Mickey hats, you name it, being delivered TODAY to them. The Disney Customer Service reps are having a BLAST with this, are familiar with the Rush story when we start off with the words "Kristie and Chad" and told us that they had a dedicated DELIVERY TRUCK which was full of our orders and a driver to set up their room, as well as several CS reps coordinating our orders of which they had actually run out of some items! It has been so much fun reconnecting with people I haven't seen in 20 years, enjoying the Rush Family reactions, and I really doubt that any other college community could pull off this big of an outpouring of God's love in just a few short hours yesterday afternoon. Way to go GROVE CITY COLLEGE classes of 1991-1996 or so! Read Kristie's blog at kristierush.BlogSpot.com <http://kristierush.blogspot.com/> - you will be touched and inspired - and please continue to pray for them as well."
________


Now imagine coming back to your hotel room (after a FABULOUS day of zipping around Epcot in your now-beloved scooter) and finding a floral delivery woman unloading CARTFULS of flowers and gifts. I mean...like...a crazy amount of gifts...32 gorgeous floral arrangements, 10 amazing cooler/picnic basket gift sets, 5 balloon bouquets with stuffed animals, several fruit and food and treat baskets….

No seriously.  Picture that. 
Picture glancing around your room and wondering if you, somehow, accidentally stepped into a wonderfully stocked gift store.

Now...imagine trying to absorb that. 
And then, as you look closely at each card attached to each item, you realize that they all came from people who you went to college with 20 years ago.
People who know your story and are prompted by God to UNLEASH HIS LAVISH LOVE UPON YOU.

What would your reaction be?

Would you bury your tear-stained incredulous face into the also-amazed arms of the delivery woman? And hold on tightly as you both marveled at the wonder and beauty of it?
Yes. Me too.

And then what?
How would you then process all that?

Yeah. That's where I am too.

No words.
None.
Not a one.

So for tonight...i'm going to let that just be all that's said. I'm going to just receive all that love. And i'm going to do my best to fall asleep as I breathe deeply the beautiful fragrance filling our room.

Thank you to ALL who extended this crazy love to my family and me.

The note we included in the gifts that we
(and the Disney Resort Staff) gave away
to any guest on a scooter or in a wheelchair
or adaptive stroller.
Please know that, tomorrow, our entire family (including some of the Disney staff at this resort) will have the privilege of sharing many of these wonderful gifts with those we see - from little ones to grown-ups - who are also trekking thru Disney on scooters or in wheelchairs or adapted strollers. May the message of the radical, lavish love of God be proclaimed in ways that make eternal differences.

Can't wait.
To be the hands and feet of Christ is a privilege...a great blessing.
Oh...my...goodness..


Friday, February 13, 2015

Update #90: A Successful First Day in Disney


Just wanted to let you all know that today's travels to Disney went beautifully!


Was picked up by our awesome neighbor, Nick, at 5:30.  FREEZING, but easy drive to airport.  No baggage to check so avoided a line about a mile long.  Went through the pre-check security line in less than 4 minutes.  Made it to our gate to enjoy a delicious rubbery bagel and egg sandwich (with chocolate milk, because, why not?).  

Boarded on time in the brilliant sunshine. 2 hours later, touched down in that same brilliant sunshine, plus about 60 degrees!  Easily navigated the Orlando airport and took the Disney Magical Express in record time to our resort.  Met my parents off the bus.   Hugs all around.  Had a yummy lunch in downtown Disney.  Checked into the hotel. 

Picked up my previously-much-dreaded scooter that I'll need to have the energy to go through the parks. Took a joy ride.   Now LOVE my scooter and may just add this lovely machine to my modes of transportation at home!  (See video for a laugh).  

Tucked myself into bed for a little nap. Woke up to the news that my sister's family had arrived.  Heard a knock at the door. Thought it was my sister.  Yelled loudly in FRENCH (with a French accent of course) that she should come in. Chad opened the door. It wasn't my sister.  It was someone delivering a BEAUTIFUL bouquet of roses…one of the prettiest I'd ever seen.  Gave Chad credit for the Valentine's gift.  He sheepishly said, "Well…if it doesn't have a tag on it, it's from me."  Ha!  (Thank you Anne. For a second you made my rock star of a husband look even more like a dream boat!!!!!)  

Had some dinner. Took a long, hot shower.  Got in my jammies.  Just about ready to tuck myself into bed for the night and wanted to tell you all that…

I FEEL GREAT! 
Cancer wasn't silent, but it was quiet as a mouse.  

So…thanks so much for your prayers and your words of support and encouragement.  
Please let your heart be lightened (if it's been saddened by my prior post) by the attached video and know that we are already having a fabulous time! :)

Love to you all,
video
Kristie

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Update #89: The Turn in the Race


This Thursday.  
So so different from last Thursday. 

Because I've been a slacker in writing this update to you all… By now, many of you have heard that I had an unexpected stay in the hospital last week.  You may also have heard that I am now finished with chemo. And you may have even heard that I have officially become a Hospice patient. 

Wow. That's a lot of change in one week.  
Actually, that was a lot of change in just a few minutes. 

In the span of one conversation - about 5 sentences in all -  I heard from my doctor that the chemo options are not helping me and that I'm done with chemo.
I heard that Hospice is the best choice for me and that I would become their patient. 
And I heard that I really needed t be admitted to the hospital until my pain could get under control. 

In the span of one conversation.
In less than 5 minutes.

And, you know what?
I am so thankful for that.

When  I was first diagnosed at 27, one of the things that Chad and I knew after I had completed all my surgeries and treatments, is that we probably wouldn't have children biologically.  Not that I couldn't physically have children, but that there might be a risk of recurrence of breast cancer if I were to get pregnant.  And, guess what? That was totally fine with me.  Seriously. Totally fine.  You see, I had never longed to be pregnant.  But, because fertility issues didn't run in my family, I just always assumed that I would have children the "regular" way.  I didn't long to be pregnant, but since that was just "how you had kids", I just assumed that's how I would have kids.  So, when Chad and I realized that perhaps that wasn't the way God was going to make us parents, I didn't grieve that at all - I mean, ZERO grief.  Within moments of that realization, I was fine with the concept of adoption and was actually looking forward to it.   

And then, a few months later,  we had submitted all our paperwork to the adoption agency and we began to wait for a baby. Although there was no telling how long that wait would actually be, we were told that it generally could take 3-6 months.  But, because there was a high probability that the adoption would happen without a lot of advance notice, I decided to prematurely stop my job as a management consultant. In fact, I would tell people that I was stopping my job "way early."  So…I had my last day of work on a Friday. Chad and I and John and Laura (along with other leaders) left early the next morning to take 100+ kids to Young Life camp and be camp counselors for the week.  And, the following Friday, we returned home at 6 PM, checked our answering machine, and found that we had a message at 4:30 that same afternoon that the adoption agency had a baby for us.  And, within 48 hours, we became parents to a beautiful 5 lb 6 oz baby girl named Emilie Grace.

Almost two years later, another submission of paperwork to the adoption agency. Another projected 3-6 month wait.  Instead, during a rare-turn-off-the-phones-power-nap by me (only ten days after our paperwork was completed), we received another call from the adoption agency that we were to be parents to a 7 lb boy named Daniel Carter.   Two days later, we drove to Buffalo to pick up our beautiful son.   "Mommy and Daddy are going to Buffalo, Emilie, to get you a brother."  

I guess you could say that I do okay when thrown into situations without notice! 

As you might imagine, since the beginning of the Stage IV part of my cancer journey 4 1/2 years ago, I've had countless thoughts about how this last part of this journey might go.  While I don't think I spent time a lot of time dwelling on it, I would be lying to you if I told you I hadn't had countless moments – even fleeting ones – in which I asked myself and God:   

Would I have to be the one who made these decisions?  
Would Chad and I agree? 
Would I just get too tired out and frustrated with chemo that made me feel yucky?  
Would my doctor have to twist my arm to move to palliative care?
Would I have to convince my doctor to let me stop?
Would I have to face my kids and tell them that I just couldn't do it anymore? 
Would the chemo just make me so stinkin' sick that I would be virtually destroyed by the drugs that were supposed to help me fight this disease?
Would…. Would… Would…

So…on Thursday when I left my house at 9:30 AM as a girl who was going to get yet another chemo treatment…and when I returned on Saturday at 4:30 as a girl who was now a Hospice patient, I was incredibly thankful that that's how fast this last turn on the course of my breast cancer marathon had gone.  

So. Incredibly. Thankful.
It was easy.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that it's easy to be a Hospice patient.  
All that I'm saying is that the decision to become one was easy.

So, now that it's been a week, how am I doing with this?

Not sure I can fully articulate it. It's actually a bit surreal. 
Because I feel as if I'm living in an oxymoron.  
In a situation that shouldn't be true, but is. In a situation that is both simple, yet impossibly complex.  Is bizarre, yet totally normal. Is totally acceptable to me and totally not. 

Here's what's disconcerting…
It's incredibly disconcerting that I now have oxygen systems lining my bedroom wall.
It's incredibly disconcerting to have to send an email like I did today to my children's teachers letting them know that Emilie and Daniel's mom is now in Hospice.
It's incredibly disconcerting to feel parts of my body under my skin that normally you wouldn't feel.
It's incredibly disconcerting to make travel arrangements to Disney for tomorrow and have to make sure that you have enough meds…that you know what hospital you'd call…that you have to arrange to have a scooter available so that you can physically make it through Disney since you certainly don't have enough energy to walk through the parks.

It's incredibly disconcerting experiencing your body starting fail in more and more obvious and prolific ways.
Yeah; that's not easy.

But there's also STILL a joy that exists at the same time. A richness.  A fullness.  A peace. 
It's hard to articulate, but I guess you're just going to have to trust me – and my 4.5 years of trying to live authentically before you about all this – that this joy is true.
It's true and it matters and it seeps into all aspects of this part of my journey.

At the same time this journey is incredibly disconcerting, it is - as plainly as I can state I - also filled with a richness that is deep and real and important. 

That's God.
Only God. 
Because it certainly isn't me. 
And to even remotely pretend it's me is just foolishness. Or insanity. Or a downright lie. 

You can't possibly have a positive enough of an attitude or a strength of personality to experience this depth of joy when your body is failing fast. When your lungs aren't working right. When your vision is messed up. When your liver is expanding at a rapid rate. When your bones are hurting and when you have medications lining your counter to help ease that, or alleviate this, or slow that.  When you look at your kiddos who are still so needing of a mom. 

Oh no; it's not because of me. 
It's all because of God.

Because He is present and He promises to make a difference.  
He promises to infuse His hope into the darkest of situations, in the bleakest of circumstances.

He makes promises and, much to my delight, He continues to deliver on them.  
I haven't tapped Him out. 
Even now.
When we're at this new place. 
When the turn in the race has been quick and sharp and the finish line is almost visible.  

In closing (to this LOOONG update – sorry!), if I could ask for prayer… would you be willing to pray that this trip to Disney for me would be one in which cancer doesn't get to have a loud voice…that my body will cooperate with our plans…that I make it there and back without any incident… that my time with my family would be sweet and special and fun?   I'd totally appreciate it. That would be just an awesome gift. 

Much love to you all,
K.
















Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Update #88: The Longest Day in History Ends with an Ouch!


I seriously think today wins the award for the longest day of my life. If it doesn't actually win it, it is a top contender.

Started at 7:23 am by Chad dropping me off at the chemo infusion center and spending FIVE HOURS there. Easy news is that my mom drove in from Rochester to be with me and the easy news is that my cell counts were high enough to get treatment. Hard news was that, well...I got CHEMO. Bleech.

Then, because of how long chemo took, I had to be rescheduled for an appointment with a retinal specialist from so it couldn't start until 12:45 pm.

Guess how long we were there?
5 HOURS!

Not only did I have to rehash my entire breast cancer story (which always has an element of depression in it and always elicits stares of disbelief and pity from the medical personnel who are recording it), I had to take multiple vision tests which I have always, always found bizarrely stressful. "Can you see better with A or B? With option 1 or 2?  A or B? 1 or 2?"  I don't know. Argh!

Then I waited.

Next, I had to have my eyes dilated to the point where the guy who then looked at them - and who looks at hundreds of dilated eyes each week - says, "Wow. They REALLY dilated your eyes. I can't even see your irises with this incredibly powerful camera that I use every day, all day to take pictures of dilated eyes."

Then I waited.

Next, I had to have fluorescent dye injected in my hand which immediately traveled to my eyes so that said photographer could take 12 minutes of photographs, all the while  feeling like I've been asked to place my eyes against halogen car headlights on brights. And not blink. Unless "told so". Try that one.

Then I waited. Some more. And more.

Then...oh, I am so not done with my story... I finally talk to the retinal specialist who shows me all my images and says...

Easy news: "the edema in your left eye is showing strong improvement. It's actually totally gone in one place and well-reduced in the other place."

Hard News: "But that's actually, surprisingly, not causing your distortion in your vision. That's a now structural problem with the placement of your photo receptor rods (as a result of the lesions to your eye) and I can't fix that." WHAT?? Ugh.

Not easy, not hard news: "BUT because the risk of me harming you is incredibly low and the possibility that I can speed up the edema totally going away, I want to give you a shot of Avastin in your eye. You won't see better but it may actually help your eye in the long run."

So...I then had the joy of having my eye: (1) numbed; (2) stabbed with a needle - that felt like he was going to pluck my eye from it's socket like when you'd put an olive on a toothpick. It hurt like crazy!; (3)  covered with a gooey gel, (4) rubbed with an ultrasound wand, and (5) traumatized by black dots flying at crazy speeds all throughout my vision to the point I thought I was hallucinating.

AND, AND, AND, to top all this off....
Upon peeing after it was over, I realized the hard way that the fluorescent dye travels quickly thru your body and turns your pee, "oh-my-gosh-a-highlighter-exploded-in-my-bladder-and-I'm-apparently-now-eliminating-it" yellow!  I have NEVER seen anything like that!

Arrived home at 6:20. Only to immediately go into homework mode with Daniel. (But, did I mention I can't see anything because you still can't see my irises? Try diagramming sentences without being able to see unless your eyes are 3" from your kid's desk. Yeah, usually not fun to ever diagram a sentence, certainly not fun under these considerations!)

And FINALLY had a two hour "13 year old girl - to mom" talk (which I treasure and was so thankful for) standing over the kitchen island and assuring her all the while that my eyes were pouring out liquid not because I was crying, but rather, as the byproduct of my "not too bad, but tiring day."

Yep. That's a long day.
Super, super long.

So...all that to say...hearing that my vision will not improve was very, very hard to hear. This has had a huge impact on my life,  and I now understand that I will have to learn how to adjust to it, rather than it having to learn the lesson I wanted it to learn: SHAPE UP OR SHIP OUT.

Nope. Didn't get to say that.
Don't like that I didn't get to say that.
Will probably cry in the coming day or two over this new reality for me.

But for now...
My bed is totally calling my name.

"I hear you, bed. I'm a coming."

Thanks for letting me complain.
I feel much better :)

K.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Update #87: New Chemo


Well… It's happening. 
I'm here again. 
Same chemo chair.
New chemo drugs.
Ugh. 


These past few weeks have brought lots of changes to my body and, as a result, lots of visits to Roswell.  Not to belabor anything but in an attempt to be honest with you, here are some of the things I've experienced and heard and lived through these past three weeks: 

Radiation daily to my left eye – 12 days
Radiation daily to my lower spine – 5 days
Radiation induced vomiting (every 20 minutes on our Rich Family Christmas morning)
CT and bone scans, x-rays, and blood work.
Vision issues in my left eye causing frustration to do simple tasks as well as nausea.
Tumor markers that are fairly rapidly escalating. 
Reduction in my weight.   I'm down about 35 lbs since June. 
New meds at home to manage the annoying cough, the bone pain in my hip, the shortness of breath. 

I probably could go on, but I'll spare us further yuckiness.
You can thank me later.

And, I totally get if you just want to delete this or decide to read it later when it might be at an easier time for you. 
I also totally get it if you read all that and your brain jumps ahead to what you are thinking is probably awaiting me.

And if you're thinking  "hospice" or "palliative care" or any of those types of phrases, you must have been eavesdropping on my recent conversations with my doctor. 
Those terms have either been directly mentioned or certainly implied.

As she has said, "We're not at the Hospice door yet, but…"

Hmm.
So what does THAT feel like?

Not sure.
It's definitely not easy.
It's definitely not fun.
It's definitely not light-hearted.
And it's definitely not what I would choose.
No, definitely not that.

But, thankfully, the physical reality of my situation is not the only voice that's speaking into my total reality. 
There is a spiritual reality that is speaking just as loudly – if not much more loudly - than my physical reality.

And it's a welcomed, peace-filling, awe-inspiring voice.
It doesn't erase  - or, like a good mathematical expression, negate - the physical reality, but rather it puts it into a beyond-important perspective.

As I find myself dealing with more effects of this unyielding disease, I find myself surprised by the amount of hope Christ is pouring out.
And astounded by the unleashing of His voice.
And amazed by the continued sacrificial love of His people toward my family and me.

And it's good.
In the midst of the hard, THAT is good.
So very good.
And I am thankful.

So, again, my friends…thanks for walking this hard journey alongside of us.  You encourage me to endure and be patient. To wait. To watch. To trust. 

Couldn't do this without you. 
So glad I don't have to.
Suckers.
:)

My love to you,
K.