Thursday, April 23, 2015

Blessings, Anyone?

Since my husband got cancer and since he also developed a pulmonary embolism and since we found out we have to move in 30 days and since our life seemingly imploded all around us, I've been listening to everything with new ears.

I have realized that blessings are not limited to just the good things that happen in our lives.

Recently, some people have hesitated to share the good things that are happening in their lives because they seem to think we are not very blessed right now. I mean, chemo is taking its toll on my hubby, we have to move and he can't really help, finding a house to move to is difficult, etc. Things in our lives are challenging right now, no doubt, but aren't they blessings, too? Can't we "feel" blessed in the midst of these trials? Can't you feel blessed when you go through various trials?

The quick answer is a resounding YES and I'll tell you why. Psalm 29:11 says, "The LORD will give strength to his people; The LORD will bless his people with peace."

The blessing is the peace. The LORD (all caps because it's translated Yahweh) gives strength to His people. The LORD blesses His people with peace. There's no indication in this verse that the peace He promised to bless us with is dependent on anything other than the fact that He promised it.


Are we frustrated with our circumstances? Yes, but we still have peace. Frustration is simply a human emotion; it does not prevent peace. You can have peace in the midst of frustration.

Are we exhausted? Yes, but we still have peace. We have also had the strength to get through each day as it comes. His promise to give us strength has proven itself in us.

Are we afraid? Yes, but we still have peace. Cancer is a scary thing to have. It can be unpredictable and change in an instant. Pulmonary embolisms are scary, too. But, peace prevails because disease doesn't change our God.

Blessings cannot be limited to good things that happen in our lives.
Blessings are present even during the rough patches we go through.
The rough patches, themselves, are blessings.

In our lives, blessings abound. We are blessed with peace. We are blessed with strength. We are blessed with many children. We are blessed with many friends. There is not room on any blog post to list the many blessings in our lives.

Cancer is a blessing because we get the opportunity to give the Gospel to new people.
Moving is a blessing because we will have new neighbors to minister to.
Trials are a blessing because we have been warned about them coming and told how to deal with them, and what they do for us. (I Peter 4)

So, share your blessings with us without apology. We are happy for you if good things are happening in your lives. We will cry with you when you go through trials. We will not tell you not to feel the way you feel, but we will tell you that God can handle your uncertainty, fear, anger, frustration and all the other emotions you are feeling at any given time.

Nothing, not one little thing, changes with God, ever. He is the same through every trial. He is the same through every blessing. He is the same through every disease. He is the same.

Praise be.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

When Things Go from Bad to Worse

Yes, things sometimes get worse, even for God's people. What's a believer to do? I'll tell you in a minute.

Since my last post about my husband's cancer diagnosis, things did get worse.  Just two days after he was discharged from Johns Hopkins Hospital, he was readmitted with internal bleeding that caused so much pain and swelling he was in excruciating pain and could not get relief, even with the hard core narcotics they had him on. This time he was admitted to the oncology wing and they started his chemotherapy early. I think it should be called chemococktail because it's a potent cocktail especially formulated for him, as each chemococktail is for each patient.

He was set to go home after three days into this second hospital stay, but had an allergic reaction to the chemococktail and had to stay another day. He came home Wednesday, April 15, still in pain, exhausted beyond measure, but glad to be home. The very next day, we got a completely unexpected call from our landlord. She asked him how he's doing as a courtesy and he said, "So, so." She asked why and he said he was just diagnosed with cancer and just got home from the hospital.

She responded, "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. I wanted to let you know we're selling the house you're living in; we're getting it listed soon. Don't worry, though, we'll give you 60 days' notice."

We immediately began house hunting. A house the size we need is hard to find in the rental market, but we began to look around. We've looked at several houses and they are either unsuitable or someone grabs it up before we can.

Then, yesterday, we got this:

Talk about shocked! 
This is when things went from bad to worse. 
This is when we had to intentionally decide to continue to trust God and wait on Him.This is what a believer has to do. We are walking through every door and every avenue that might possibly seem open, yet every door to housing has promptly closed up tight so far. The right house has not come along yet. In the meantime, we do what has to be done. My hubby has to take his meds; he has to rest as much as possible; he has to give himself shots; he has to get his chemococktails; he has to continue his lab work; he has to go to work; I have to keep on keeping on with what I have to do and house hunt at the same time. 

I'll answer a few questions that have been asked:

No, we aren't getting 60 days. 
Yes, they are within their legal rights to do this.
No, we do not have another house to move to. 
Yes, his chemococktail is taking its toll...he's constantly exhausted and his hair is falling out all over the place.
Yes, we feel the pressure of this trial. 
No, we will not lose faith in our God. 
No, we do not feel forsaken. 
Yes, it makes us angry.
Yes, we believe anger is totally justifiable.
No, we won't use our anger as an occasion to sin or strike back.
Yes, we will make our need known to God's people in hopes that they'll pray.
Yes, we will make ourselves vulnerable even to those who will delight in our hardship or believe it's some sort of punishment. (Those people don't know our God if they believe that.)
Yes, we will wait on the Lord.
Yes, we will continue to house hunt.
Yes, we pray all the time about this.
Yes, we hope you will pray, too.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Navigating New Waters (Our Trip Down Cancer Lane)

My husband has cancer. They call it DLBCL....Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma. It's fast-growing and illusive at the same time.

It started with back pain that would not let up even with his regular chiropractic treatments. We have both seen a chiropractor on a regular basis for more than three decades and we believe in chiropractic care. But, something wasn't right because his pain not only persisted, it got worse, even with regular adjustments. Even a trip to the ER for pain control did not signal anything more desperate to our regular chiropractor, so he found another chiropractor in hopes of finding help. The ER doctor and the chiropractor had both diagnosed him with sciatica, a nerve issue that we all knew could cause horrible pain.

But the new chiropractor, after just a few treatments, knew something else was going on and he recommended, then arranged for, an MRI so he could see why he was not responding to normal sciatica treatment.

And there it was, a huge tumor, 10cm long and 4 cm wide, all wrapped around his sacrum and pushing heavily into his tail bone at the base of his spine. Because we got the MRI results late on a Friday afternoon, we had no chance to see his regular doctor, so I took him to the ER to get some stronger pain control help. That did not help and he ended up back in the ER early Sunday morning and he was eventually admitted for IV pain control. Relief was hard to find, but he was starting to feel better on the hard-core narcotics.

While at the local community hospital, they ran other tests over a few days' time, concluding that they were out of their league and they recommended he be transferred to either the University of Maryland Medical Center or The Johns Hopkins Hospital. We opted for Johns Hopkins and waited 24 hours for a bed there.

Our son, Michael, drove up from Raleigh to help. Our other kids began making plans to help in whatever way they could.

At Johns Hopkins, they admitted him to the neurology floor and began their myriad of tests, all while keeping him on the hard-core narcotics for pain control. At this point, there was no diagnosis and he was admitted to neurology due to the fact that the tumor was wrapped around his spinal cord nerves.

The doctors at Hopkins ran their own tests, doing extensive MRIs and CT scans. One CT scan revealed a large pulmonary embolism in his right lung, essentially shutting that lung down and forcing him to use only his left lung. He had no symptoms; no one was looking for a pulmonary embolism. If not the for CT scan, it may have gone undetected and carried out it's tendency to kill. They began blood thinning treatment immediately. We praised our Living God.

One doctor on his team came to talk to us about the pulmonary embolism and said, "PEs are normal when there is a malignancy."

I said, "Wait....he has a malignancy?"

She answered, "Well, they have to run more tests. I mean, no one knows for sure. We are scheduling a biopsy but the blood thinner complicates that."

When she left, we looked at each other. We knew. He had a malignancy. Ok, then. Let's fix this.

Ten minutes later, another doctor came and told us that a spot was found on his spleen during the same CT scan. He said they can't say for sure what the spot is, but since it's on his spleen, it's likely lymphoma. We learned that lymphoma is the best news, though. How can a cancer diagnosis be the best news? Because removal of the tumor surgically would leave David without many functions, crippling him in many ways and requiring extensive rehab. And it could grow back. Lymphoma meant they could shrink, then kill the tumor(s) with chemotherapy and no surgery would be required.

We prayed for lymphoma. They did the biopsy on Friday, March 27 and we waited until Tuesday, March 31 for results.

It came back lymphoma. We praised our Living God.

Our Son, Matt, flew in to help. Michael had to go home.

Hopkins did another round of tests, including a PET scan and another host of blood tests. In the meantime, we got to know David's nurses and techs and ministered to them as we could.

He's home now, after 12 days in 2 different hospitals and pain control is still an issue. He starts an aggressive cocktail of chemotherapy at Johns Hopkins this coming Tuesday. His meds in the meantime run us about $1,850.00 per month, and that's with our prescription discount applied. Before that, they were close to $7,000.00.

His oncologist, Dr. Richard Jones, said, "Lymphomas like to hide in secret places. I know where they hide. I know how to find them. I will find them and I will kill them all. That's my job." I felt confident when he left.

David gets weak easily and pain control is still an issue here at home. We are navigating new waters. Cancer is deep, deep water, yet it has waves that are unpredictable and even obstacles that reach to the surface of its depths, leaving a person reeling with questions, uncertainties and fear.

Yet, our God has sustained us; we have not given in to the fear and panic that threaten to rise up and swallow us. While we feel like we're in a deep, deep ocean with only a row boat, but that's just how we feel. The truth is, despite our feelings, we are in the hands of the living, almighty God Who holds us and has promised to never let us go or be consumed by what this world dishes out.

Nothing about our God and His promises changes because of this diagnosis.
Nothing about our God and His promises changes because of how we feel.
This is our focus.

A friend has set up a Gofundme account for us, which is super kind of her. You can access that here.

So, we rest in Him.