Connecting

We were made for community, for connecting. The people in our community have made a huge difference for us, and not just through the challenges of the past couple of years. We all need people who love us, who are for us, who will help and support us … and to really flourish, we need to love and support others as well!

I’m no longer regularly relying on the generosity of others to help cook meals for our family. Most days I enjoy the opportunity to create something nutritious and delicious! We’ve been eating lots of soups and curries lately! We share great conversation and laughter around the table, and also in the preparation time. My 12yo especially loves to cook with me, and that is one of the great joys of my life! Anytime I get to hang out with my kids, teach them, listen to them, learn with them, laugh, read and pray with them … is a good gift!

The cold weather keeps me inside sometimes, since it can be hard to breathe, but I still get out a bit.

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9yo creating a snow sculpture with a friend 

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Night skating on our backyard rink

 

I continue to wonder what the terrain will be like on the other side of this valley. I am not the same person I used to be, and I’m trying to figure out what my strengths are now, and what I have to offer. Cancer slammed some doors shut on me, but it can’t shut them all, nor can it keep them all closed. I’m glad I’m not travelling this journey alone.

A weekly highlight is our “Women of the Word” group which has been together for six years. We study Scripture, share our lives and pray together. Not only have I learned loads as we’ve journeyed (at a snail’s pace) through Luke, Acts, Micah, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Galatians (as well as a number of other passages), but I’ve received more than I could imagine as our hearts have been knit together in love and trust. These women are tremendous, and I am blessed beyond words that we are part of each others’ lives. We could write a book about our experiences together, and another one about the prayers we’ve seen answered.

This past September I started a Bible study for my boys and a couple of their friends. We call it bob sos. I can’t remember exactly what that stands for, but it’s something about the Bible and ice cream sundaes. This group can be challenging: these youth do not have much experience participating in group discussions and I sometimes feel like I’m herding cats! I love it though! These youth ask amazing questions – some of the best I’ve ever heard – and their faces light up many times during each study. What a gift that I get to participate with them and my encouraging co-leader!  My 14yo said, “bob sos is really fun: we get to talk about the Bible with our friends and eat sundaes!” I guess that sums it up!

I continue to live a much more isolated life than I ever had previously. This can be hard for me, social extrovert that I am, but I don’t have the energy to spend as much time with people as I used to. I have been given more opportunities to pray for people, and to grow in learning to pray. This is a privilege, and a responsibility. It is also very encouraging to see prayer answered!

My voice continues to improve … but a long way to go still. Recently I was helping to lead singing at a local church where we know quite a few people, and many came over to tell me they are praying for me. How encouraging! I am so grateful!

Who are “your people”?  In what ways do you live interconnected lives? How intentional are you about growing deeper in community? Who are the people who encourage you, who speak truth in love and help you to grow? How are you encouraging, speaking truth in love and helping others to grow?

Have you tried connecting with God in prayer? How has it been going? Luke 11 tells us that Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them to pray. And he did. Years ago, I read “With Christ in the School of Prayer”. I’m grateful to still be a learner in that good school! Prayer is talking with God. There’s no magic formula, no special language or invitation needed. We are all welcome! Praise God!

It’s not all super-nutritious around here: above is proof of that! Some of this month’s treats are pictured, including happy hot chocolate! (Do you see the smiley face the marshmallows and spoon make in the mug?) We enjoyed crepes with yogurt and fruit for dinner tonight. Happy leap year day!

 

 

From Hill to Hill

When friends near and far are asking how I’m doing and why I haven’t updated the blog, I know it’s time! 🙂 The short summary is: I’m quite well, praise God! Life has been full in many good ways the past couple of months, and computer challenges made it difficult to update the blog. We are so thankful for the generous friend who gave us a new  computer which I have sufficiently figured out and am thrilled to be able to use! (Apparently you can teach an “old dog” new tricks! haha!)

Time and time again I am blown away by the generosity of people! There are so many stories I could tell from the past couple of months, and I hope to at some point. Let me simply say we feel very blessed on many fronts!

The numbers are good!

The numbers are good!

Here’s the health summary:

The clinical trial drug seems to be working very well! I have better days and worse days, but overall I feel better than I have in many months. The side effects are mostly manageable and overall seem to continue to decrease. I am always looking for the patterns, wondering if I change my eating habits will the GI effects diminish, for example, … but so far there is no discernible consistency. One day I’ll be mostly fine, and the next I’ll be napping all afternoon / evening. Fatigue hits hard and startles me, like running into a wall. But I’m learning to adjust my expectations and try to do things when I can.

One day in the summer I wanted to walk through a long and hilly, sandy path to the lake. I’d heard the waves were gorgeous and I really wanted to see them and play in them. My 8yo was with me and I said, How about we try walking to the top of the next hill and see what we can see. I really didn’t think I could make it all the way there, but wanted to try a little. Each time we got to the top of a hill I asked her if we could try for the next one. We kept reaching for these little goals then re-evaluating, and amazingly we made it all the way through from hill to hill to the lake. The colours were beautiful, and the scenery spectacular! I wished I could have brought my camera! We played in the waves which were huge for a lake and reminiscent of the ocean. My daughter was thrilled that I could play and climb with her! I didn’t stay long, but thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity, then turned around and headed back. I felt exhilarated and exhausted, but mostly spent the walk back praising God and thanking Him for giving me the strength and courage to make the trek, and for the joy of the whole experience.

This past week was tiring, with all the usual routine tests and appointments that happen every 3 weeks, plus the CT scan which I have every 6 weeks. I have to take meds before the CT scan to help prevent allergic reactions, and that means setting my alarm to take them once or twice during the night. I am grateful for the meds and the care, and the good people with whom I interact, but having things on three days in a row and missing out on sleep takes so much more energy than one might expect. I was very tired going into this week, but yesterday was feeling amazingly well. Sometimes these gifts of energy and ability come as beautiful surprises!

There have been so many beautiful gifts and surprises this summer, and I would love to tell you about them all … but today I have groceries to buy! The summary is that we’ve had many joyous visits with friends, the kids all seem to be settling into their new school rhythms well so far, and we are feeling very loved and blessed. I hope to fill you in on more details in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your love, prayers and support. We cannot find words to tell you how grateful we are!

Beautiful blooms!

Beautiful blooms!

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Setting up for the usual tests

Setting up for the usual tests

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An Extraordinary Week

I’m resting on the couch with my feet up, reflecting with thankfulness on how good and how strange this week of testing was. I am so glad I made it through! I’m coughing a lot, and looking forward to starting new meds on Monday. (Hoping they work really well!) There are so many stories I could tell and too many thoughts to mention, but let me give you a taste …

Tuesday was blood tests and EKG. As I’m driving to the hospital, the huge dump truck beside me starts moving into my lane! I stayed calm and reacted the way they taught me to in driving school. All was well and I made it safely to the hospital, praise God.

I was rather shaken and physically shaking when I arrived at the chemotherapy unit and checked in. In the waiting room, a man verbally attacked me for no rational reason, but it hit me hard. I’m guessing he was probably feeling frightened and dealing with his own stuff in an inappropriate manner. I was feeling extra vulnerable due to the truck incident. I walked away, then burst into tears. I am thankful for the caring staff at the hospital who comforted and protected me. I made it home without any further incidents!

Wednesday was the bone scan, and my husband Jono asked people to pray that I wouldn’t cough much. I typically cough almost constantly when lying on my back, and that’s how this test is performed … but you have to stay still to get results.

I lay down on the machine and coughed almost immediately, but – and this is hard to believe – that was the only time during the course of the test that I coughed! Wow! Praise God! Thank you for asking for prayer, Jono. Thank you all who prayed.

Thursday was the CT scan – also on my back. Let me say that it went really well. No problems. No coughing. No allergic reactions. Praise God! Thank you for praying.

Now let me tell you what was challenging …

Last CT scan, a friend’s appointment was scheduled right after mine so I greatly enjoyed spending time with him and his wife. This time a different story: a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit with handcuffs and leg cuffs was scheduled right before me, so I shared the inner waiting room with this man and two security guards. I was feeling a bit scared before I got to the hospital, and my apprehension increased. Then there was an emergency situation with the person ahead of us, so we ended up waiting together for a very long time  – over an hour! I thank God for keeping me calm and helping me to see this man as a person rather than simply a prisoner. I am thankful for freedom! I am also thankful for the opportunity to be in an uncomfortable situation that was safe. I spent a fair bit of time praying while I was there! I am thankful for the friends who were praying for me.

So this has been an eventful week on several levels, with new situations and many emotions to process. I am thankful for the love of God which surrounded me, even in the presence of the yelling man and the prisoner. I am thankful for the peace of God which filled me, even in this variety of stressful situations. I am thankful for the gift of prayer and the way God’s peace pushed away anxiety and fear when I prayed. I am thankful for God’s protection in the midst of danger. I am thankful for the mercy of significant chunks of time on my back without a cough. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers, and the beauty of Spring erupting all around me. I am thankful for the love and generosity of friends and family. I thank the Lord who made me.

I thank you.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6.7)

P.S. –  If I could ask for one more thing … Thursday morning a woman bumped into my arm. It was a fairly hard bump from something she was carrying as she rushed past me. She apologized, and I didn’t think much of it at the time. I figured I’d have a bruise, but it seems to have triggered severe pain and muscular spasms in my rib cage. I’m tired and sore, but the week-end is coming and I want to be present with my kids. If you’re the praying type, I would appreciate your prayers for energy and healing! Thank you!

Freedom!

I feel so much better! The side effects of this chemo continue to be difficult, but I’m alive and I can breathe pretty well. There are times when I even forget about the cancer … something I previously hadn’t been able to do since every breath was a reminder.

I used to cough constantly – especially if I was talking. I couldn’t sing, shout, or even talk much since my voice wasn’t working. Walking – even part of a short block – at a brisk pace not only gave me shortness of breath, but started off coughing that wouldn’t stop for up to half an hour. Some evenings I wondered if I could make it up the stairs to my bedroom.

Right now I feel so free! I typically go the whole day without coughing. I can sing a little bit, and shout to my kids if I need to. I still suffer from shortness of breath, but not nearly like it was before: there’s a spring in my step!

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Yesterday I took our kids and some of their friends to the park. I cycled there, and together we formed quite the procession on bikes, scooters, a skateboard and roller blades! The kids had a blast at the park and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them and taking photo’s.

Even my chest x-ray last month showed improvement, and chest x-rays don’t show small changes! I am so very thankful for this new chemo and for the greatly improved health I’m enjoying!trying new things!

I have another chest x-ray and an appointment with my oncologist next week, and I am hoping we’ll be able to slightly reduce the meds I’m on and thus hopefully reduce the side effects.

I am so grateful for this freedom and energy, and I want to make the most of it!

I hope that you know deep freedom, and are living life to the full!

PS: Guess who we keep finding at the park … a gift that brings us joy!

Guess who we found at the park! IMG_1882 IMG_1886 IMG_1901

Chemotherapy has its privileges

Chemotherapy has its privileges: you get to carry a special IMG_9471card. Not a gold card, but a red and white “fever card” which reminds the patient to “seek immediate medical attention at the nearest hospital” if one’s temperature is at or above 38 degrees C (100.4 F). “This may be a cancer EMERGENCY”, it declares in bold letters.

We get regular reminders that we are to check our temperature daily, and I usually do it in the evening. Friday morning, though, I awoke feeling quite wretched, reached for the thermometer and discovered my temperature was 38.1 … wishing it was 37.9 didn’t change the reading!

So I went downstairs to tell Jono (my husband), who reminded me that the car was at the garage for repairs. By the time I’d jumped in the shower, dressed and grabbed my bag (which was already packed since I was scheduled to spend the afternoon having chemo), a lovely neighbour was arriving to drive me to the hospital. (Jono picked up the car and met me there later.)

I didn’t have to wait long before they brought me into my own special isolation room, with a warning sign posted on the door. I didn’t even know they had these private rooms in emerg – kind of like being in a hotel with my own attached powder room! Few people were allowed to enter, and they had to be dressed up with special masks etc. to protect me from further infection.

“Febrile Neutropenia” they call it. I think it means that the chemo significantly affects one’s ability to fight any infection. At certain times of my chemo cycles I have virtually no white blood cells (nor red ones nor platelets for that matter). The timing of this fever couldn’t really have been better for me – praise God – because my blood test numbers were good and I was due to have chemo that day.

They ran a bunch of tests: more chest x-rays, urine tests, blood tests (three pokes and two new bruises), etc. but couldn’t find any particular infection. I slept most of the day while they loaded me up with fluids and two different IV antibiotics. They considered admitting me, but I was so thankful they let me go home around dinner time, with a prescription for yet another antibiotic … covering all the bases!

I napped on the couch all evening, then a quick dinner and straight off to bed where I slept really well. Amazingly well, in fact! I slept EIGHT HOURS STRAIGHT, which I hadn’t done for six months! Normally I awake about every two to three hours – generally because I’m uncomfortable. Since August, I can only lie on my right side or else I cough. I could not believe that I woke up at 9:00 am with the glorious sun shining so high in the sky!!

Saturday I felt so much better. Sunday better still. This morning it occurs to me that the fact that no one has pumped my body full of toxic chemotherapy chemicals since February 4th probably has something to do with me feeling stronger and more energetic.

… But I want that chemo to kill more of the cancer … and I need to get in to see my oncologist before they will schedule me for more. I was feeling a bit frustrated that the long week-end delayed my regularly scheduled Tuesday chemo date, and now I’m chomping at the bit to get back on track! (… and desperately trying to not succumb to the control-freak part of my nature!)

I’m also very aware that so many of you are praying powerfully for me and I can’t tell you how much that means to our family. I feel your prayers and the presence of God powerfully, and I know that your prayers are making a huge difference. Thank you!

I’ve been reading the gospel of Matthew lately, and healing was such a big part of Jesus’ ministry. Chapter 8 tells how he healed a leper, which was the big “incurable” disease of the day. The leper knelt before Jesus saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him (a cultural / religious / medical no-no of the time), saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus heals a Roman Centurion’s servant, commending the Roman for his faith (we are all welcomed – praise God!). Then he heals many at Peter’s house, including Peter’s mother-in-law. Chapter 9 describes Jesus healing a paralyzed man when he saw the faith of his friends, then a woman who had been suffering from bleeding for 12 years, a little 12 year old girl who had died, two blind men, a mute demoniac, and the list goes on…

What I find so exciting is that Jesus goes to all the cities and villages. He teaches, he proclaims the good news of the kingdom, he cures every disease and every sickness, he has compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd … and he says to his disciples,

The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.

Jesus then summons his twelve disciples, gives them authority, and he sends them out to do the same things he has been doing … good news!

You, through your prayers, are written into this story, sent by Jesus to do his good work of love and compassion. Thank you for being labourers in his harvest, and for the difference it is making for us.

Please do keep praying – not only for me, but also for my family. Being a caregiver / supporter / loved one is hard work! My husband is tired; my kids can be scared / grumpy / angry / etc. We all welcome your prayers.

We also greatly appreciate all the warm thoughts, cards, help and gifts we are receiving. It is so encouraging knowing that so many people are standing with us and supporting us in so many ways, and believe me: this all makes a HUGE difference to us. We can not tell you how much it means to us. THANK YOU!