Archive for October, 2008
This week, my threads of gratitude are many.Â So many, in fact, that they can be woven together.Â Â With brightly-colored hues and striking designs, they converge together to create a lovely fabric…a BEACH TOWEL.
Whether playing in the ocean, building sandcastles, or swimming in the pool…whether sitting quietly on our balcony watching the sun rise over the ocean, or sharing a liesurely lunch on the other balcony overlooking the pool…whether reading a book on the shore, or building entire sand-cities…I’ve had plenty of opportunities to reflect on what’s truly important.Â And it’s those things that I am most grateful for.
- I’m grateful for time….for time spent with my children and husband, for these years that we have together to build family bonds and create the memories that my children will cherish well into their adult years…for the time we have to wait for Matt’s treatments to begin: that his cancer, though serious, is not life-threatening…for the ability to put our schedule on hold for one week and enjoy unlimited time together, playing games, laughing, relaxing, and just enjoying one another.
- I’m grateful for family…for my children, who bring such joy into every day…for children that I not only love with all my heart, but actually like to be around…for a husband who is my best friend in every sense of the word…for extended family members who share in our sorrows and rejoice in our happy times, even when they can’t be with us physically.
- I’m grateful for my faith…for having an anchor to ground me in the craziness of life…for having a compass to guide me in the confusion of life…for having a Father to comfort me in the troubling times of life…for having a Guide to lead me in the unknowns of life…truly, nothing can compare to His presence in every moment of life.
- I’m grateful for creation…for the beauty, the creativity, the awesome design, the attention to detail that infuses every aspect of the world God gave us.Â As we’ve explored washed-up jellyfish and crabs, as we’ve collected shells and visited museums and marine rescue centers, we’ve been reminded that our God is a Master Artist.Â And the same God who made those jellyfish, an incredibly simple form of life, is the same God who controls the pounding waves, the constant winds, the shifting sands.
- And on a far less reverent note, I’m grateful for my new clothes..for having to buy a new bathing suit because the ones I had were too big…for finally feeling brave enough to get a “real” two-piece that shows my belly button (though I couldn’t completely ditch the skirt!)…for buying new pajamas (because I conveniently forgot to pack mine)…for being able to buy these things in smaller sizes than what I own…and for a husband who celebrates with me (and really likes my new bathing suit and pajamas.Â ‘nuf said).
The next seven days hold great promise of things to be grateful for in the midst of a certain storm.Â We will leave on Saturday to drive to Houston, where we will drop Matt off for a consultation with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on Monday morning.Â We will be ushered back to reality very quickly…and it won’t all be fun.Â So today, I’m grateful to be able to spin these threads into a beach towel and enjoy the moments we have.
Surf’s up, dude…gotta go catch a wave!
Are you kidding me??Â I’m on VACATION!
So, NO, as a matter of fact, we did NOT pack our scale.
And I’m not even going to think about my scale until next Monday, when I have to.
But we did an unofficial weigh-in before leaving early Sunday morning and I’m happy to report that we’re both back down to our lows from the week before:
Matt – 28.5 lbs. lost
Debbi – 27 lbs. lost
But really, that’s not the best news of all.Â The best news of all is that I now have to buy a new bathing suit!Â I hope to go shopping tomorrow at one of the surf shops in the area.Â And even better – they’re all having massive sales for the off-season!Â Woo-hoo!Â Shopping, sales, and new clothes in a smaller size.Â You bet I’m having the time of my life on this trip!
I love the quote by Mark Twain referenced above about the three types of lies.Â Usually it makes me chuckle.Â This time, however, I’m hanging my hopes on statistics and praying that they are not worse than damnable lies!
We met with the treating oncologist on Friday for a consult on Matt’s treatment.Â What he didn’t realize was that this was more of an “interview” on our part and not a commitment to him or his facility.Â WeÂ now know the full extent of the cancer in Matt’s body, the recommended course of treatment, and the expected outcome.Â Ironically, that list also indicates the level of bad news, from worst to best.Â Let’s start with the worst bad news, shall we?
We now know that cancerous lymph nodes have been found in his neck, under his left arm, in his abdomen…and in his chest cavity. Wow.Â All in all, the doctors only estimate about 15 “hot” lymph nodes, but the fact that they are so scattered about through his body is a bit unsettling.Â Which leads us to the bad bad news…
The recommended course of treatment is chemotherapy.Â Radiation is not recommended due to the high dosages required to eradicate the cancerous cells from his body.Â Before he begins chemo, however, he will have to undergo a bone marrow biopsy – one final step to be sure we know where all the cancer is hiding so we can kill it all.Â The chemo will begin sometime in early to mid-November and will run on 6 15-day cycles.Â What that means in plain English is he will receive chemo treatments on average every other week for 24 weeks, or about 6-8 months.Â Each treatment will take about 3 hours to complete.Â Which leads us to the best bad news…
The expected outcome?Â Pretty darn good.Â Like to the tune of 90-95% successful.Â 5 years, 10 years, 20 years…it’s all the same.Â Or better.Â And if the first round of chemo doesn’t get it, we can do it all over again and be pretty confident of getting it all the second time.
So let’s just pray that these statistics hold up.Â This is one time I’m definitely praying that Matt will conform to the majority.Â I kinda like the sounds of being stuck with him for another 20 years or so.
I was reminded this week of our faith journey of the past year.Â How God used His call of Abram to leave Ur to go to an unknown land to call us out of our church in Plano.Â How we thought we’d completed the task and finished that faith journey when God led us to McKinney Fellowship.
Then we found out that we’d be doing a study on faith this fall.Â And we wondered what God had in store for us this time.Â We fully believed it would have to do with Matt’s job, and we began to prepare emotionally (and financially) for him to quit his job.Â We knew this would be an incredible step of faith…and were convinced this was what God wanted us to do.
Well, sort of.Â I had a nagging, persistent doubt…and an unsettled sense that maybe this wasn’t it at all.Â I tried to shrug it off as a lack of faith…as focusing more on my doubts and fears than on letting God be God.Â In true submission, I expressed my concerns to Matt but offered my support to stand by whatever decision he felt was best for our family.Â And then I prayed…fervently…intensely…that if this wasn’t what God wanted us to do, He would make it perfectly clear.
That very next week, we received the news that Matt has cancer.
God ushered us very quickly into the next phase of our faith journey: that of laying Isaac on the altar of sacrifice.Â A place of total submission to His plan, His will.Â The medical statistics seem to indicate that we will find the proverbial ram in the thicket, that Matt has a great chance of beating this disease and living a long and healthy life.Â I would love nothing more, and I pray that this is God’s will.Â But I also know that like Abraham, I must be willing to let it all go…to raise the knife…to trust that God will provide another way.
I’m grateful…for His promises…for a humble faith that sometimes falters but desperately desires to see God glorified in whatever way He chooses.
And I’m grateful…and humbled…that in a much grander way, God did not spare His own Son…that despite my unworthiness, He loved me and made the choice to sacrifice His beloved child so that I could live and have an eternal hope.
A friend of mine shared this video with me earlier this week, and I was once again awestruck at the love of my God, who reached out to me when I had nothing to offer in return.Â As she said, “We are so blessed to be loved by Him!”Â Amen and Amen.
The annual State Fair of Texas has come and gone once again.Â This year marks the first year since Trey was born that we have not made our annual pilgrimage to the fair.Â We had planned to go on October 10 since it was an early release day for McKinney schools, but something about Matt having a ginormous lymph node removed from his neck prevented us from going.Â Sheesh…the things some people will do to avoid the crowds at the fair.
What that means is that I did not get my once-a-year fix of Fletcher’s Corny Dogs or State Fair Funnel Cake.Â I didn’t get to enjoy Fried Coke, or Fried Cheesecake, or Fried Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly, or any of those deep-fried delicacies one can only find at the fair.Â It’s probably just as well since I don’t think those foods are on the South Beach diet.
A friend of mine sent me a list of the foods you can find at the fair – and I thought all 10 of my readers might get a kick out of seeing this menu.Â Enjoy, and feel your arteries clogging as you read through it. Read the rest of this entry »
I learned from the internet!
No, not really.Â But close.
We met with the surgical oncologist yesterday afternoon for Matt’s follow-up.Â He confirmed what we had already suspected from the PT scan reports and our conversations with him in the hospital: that cancerous lymph nodes were detected in Matt’s neck, under his arm, and in his abdomen.Â Because cancer was detected on both sides of the diaphragm, he is considered to be Stage III.
Though this sounds frightening, we’ve done our research.Â We’ve had it reiterated many, many times: Hodgkin’s is a “good cancer.”Â It is survivable.Â It is treatable.Â Most Hodgkin’s patients are cured fully and go on to live many more years of normal life.Â The doctor himself said that Matt’s prognosis is “very good.”Â He wholeheartedly supported our decision to get a second opinion and highly recommended M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Of course, as with any serious illness, there are downsides.Â The survivability rates drop from 90% (or higher) at Stages I and II to 60% at Stage III.Â Though that’s still a majority, it’s not the unqualified success rate we were hoping for.Â The doctor spent time discussing chemotherapy with us yesterday and that treatment alone has its own risks and side effects.Â Hodgkin’s patients are more likely to develop secondary cancers such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, and others.
While I want to be well-educated about this disease and Matt’s treatment, I also recognize that all of this – the statistics, the risks involved, the possible side effects – are far beyond my control.Â I know that God alone holds Matt’s future, and I am more than happy to place my trust in Him and allow God to be glorified through His plan.
Last week, I discovered a Bible verse – one of those “I never knew this was in the Bible!” kind of verses.Â I’m convinced that God gave this to me as a promise, and I intend to claim it for our situation:
This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” – John 11:4Â (emphasis mine)
Now it’s time to sit back and watch what God’s gonna do!Â It’s going to be an exciting ride!
I was never very good at math.Â I struggle with even the most basic mathematical concepts.Â I have a hard time balancing my checkbook.Â And let’s not even talk about geometry or calculus.Â I do much better when letters represent sounds, not numbers.Â But here’s a proof I discovered – on my own, no less – this week.Â See if you can follow this logic problem:
If Debbi = Tired,
Then Dinner = Easy.
If Debbi = Stressed + Emotional,
Then Snacks = Chocolate (subset of Comfort).
If Week = Busy,
Then Matt = Fend + For + Yourself.
Therefore, since Debbi = Stressed + Tired + Emotional and Week = Busy,
And Dinner = Easy and Snacks = Chocolate (subset of Comfort) and Matt = Fend+For+Yourself,
Then Scale > Last Week.
It’s official.Â We now have a name for the cancer that birthed Hadji: Lymphocyte Predominant Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.Â Leave it to my husband to get a rare form of a rare cancer.Â I always knew he was unique, but don’t you agree that this is taking his individuality a bit far?
There is good news in all this.Â Hodgkin’s, though rare, is extremely treatable.Â The survivability rate for early detection (Stage I and Stage II) is above 90%, with the 5-year survivability mark at the same level.Â It is generally a slow-growing cancer and is non-aggressive, which means the element of time is on our side.Â But by the same token, it’s still cancer.Â People do die from LPHD, to the tune of about 1,300 annually.Â And every one of those deaths represents someone’s son, daughter, sister, brother, mother, father, or husband.
We still don’t have confirmation on the stage or spread of his cancer, but we are going to take the small bit of good news as a positive sign.Â And yes, we will be calling Houston (M.D. Anderson Cancer Center) for a second opinion and to discuss treatment options.Â Hopefully one day soon, we’ll be able to sound the “all clear” for him and rejoice in his complete healing.
Today I had the opportunity to do something I haven’t done in quite a while.Â I was a classroom teacher!
I subbed for the first time in Trey’s class.Â That’s definitely a new experience for me.Â I’ve been the student with a parent as my teacher before.Â Several times, in fact.Â That was my life (and the death of my social life) all throughout junior high and high school.Â But I’ve never been the parent with a child as my student before.Â At least, not in a classroom setting.
It was fun.Â I enjoyed getting to see Trey’s class from the inside out.Â And with two girls being absent, the ratio wasn’t too far off of the class I had my second year of teaching: 13 boys and 4 girls.Â Despite the overbalance of pre-pubescent testosterone, the mix works and the class seems to get along really well.Â I had no major discipline problems, and the day ran very smoothly.Â It was a district assessment day so I got to put on my “mean teacher” hat and be a strict disciplinarian.Â They worked on the assessment, had P.E., did AR (self-directed reading) time, watched a movie, had lunch and recess, and I read two chapters of their read-aloud.Â Yeah, it was a tough day.Â I caught up in my Bible study, wrote notes, and did a lot of thumb-twiddling.Â Good thing I didn’t have my laptop or I would have spent the day glued to Facebook.
After my tough day of teaching, I’m glad for a quiet night to relax and unwind.Â Some wonderful friends from the preschool at McKinney Fellowship are bringing us dinner (grilled salmon, veggies, and salad with strawberries for dessert!), and the kids are going to Parent’s Night Out through Club 360, so it will be a truly relaxing night for us…no cooking, no cleaning, no kids.Â I like the sounds of that.
I have a confession to make.Â I was secretly dreading my womens’ Bible study this fall.
There were many reasons for this, and some of them were actually legitimate.Â I wanted to be in a group of my peers, women of my age and life stage, and most of them were attending on Wednesdays.Â After a full year of Beth Moore studies, I wanted to do something different, something from a different perspective and a different format, but this was the only course offered on Thursday mornings.Â So I tried to focus on the positive and accept that I had much to learn from the older women – and this would give me the opportunity to get to know some of them – and that God had something to teach me through this particular study.
Today, I humbly accept that God’s plan is far greater than mine.Â That His vision sees beyond the immediate to something much bigger, much grander, much more awesome than my limited scope can comprehend.Â In my heart, I fall to my knees and raise my hands with adoration and gratitude to my awesome God, for what He intended for me.
The study we’re doing?Â “Living Beyond Yourself” by Beth Moore.Â It’s a study of the Fruit of the Spirit.Â Even though I didn’t know how much I would need this, God did.Â And the journey has been incredible so far.Â These are the nuggets of truth I’ve been gleaning throughout the past 6 weeks:
“My seasonal circumstances are often beyond me.Â My unrelenting daily demands are beyond me…We are called to exclamation mark living!” (September 11 – Matt’s birthday)
God, I’m grateful that in that introductory session You gave me the foundation of knowing that nothing – not my current circumstances, not my daily demands, NOTHING – is beyond You.Â I’m grateful for knowing that in the midst of this difficult time, through the power of Your Spirit, I can do things I couldn’t, feel things I didn’t, and know things I wouldn’t.Â I’m grateful for Your assurance.
“Abba is a term of extreme endearment expressed by a young child to his beloved father, his hero, the one who kisses his scraped knee and dries his fresh tears. Â Abba would be the word used only for a parent who was familiar, available, trustworthy, and comforting.Â Literally it is ‘Daddy, my Daddy.’” (September 18 – anniversary of Dad’s heart attack)
God, I’m grateful that on that day, you gave me a reminder of what a loving Father you are…how you care for my hurts, my fears, my sorrows.Â I’m grateful that I can curl up in Your arms and rest secure in Your strong presence, that I can cry on Your shoulder, that I can press myself deep into You in the midst of a storm and know that you will protect me.
“One of the best possible terms to illustrate how the Holy Spirit works within us is resonance: ‘to oscillate with the same frequency as the source.’” (September 25 – the initial diagnosis of lymphoma)
God, I’m grateful that you are Emmanuel…God with us.Â You don’t just exist…You’re here with me.Â Beside me.Â Before me.Â Around me.Â Within me.Â I’m grateful that because You are with me, I don’t have to be afraid.Â I’m grateful that because you are beside me, I am never alone.Â I’m grateful that because You are before me, I don’t have to fear what lies ahead.Â I’m grateful that because You are within me, I have Your strength and courage to live and face each challenge with confidence.
“[Love]…always hopes, which means ‘to expect with desire.’…always perseveres…which means ‘to remain under’.Â In common terminology, [love] ‘hangs in there‘…never fails.Â [Love] is never without effect.Â [Love] is never in vain!” (October 2 -the week of our initial oncology consultation)
God, today I’m grateful for those who have shown agape to our family.Â For those who have expressed hope to us…who are persevering with us…and who have given without expecting a return.Â I’m grateful for friends who pray, for those who encourage, for those who meet practical needs.
“Ruth, who chose to remain with Naomi, had no idea about the future.Â She simply knew they must be together.Â As we remain in Christ, our attitudes and determinations must be similar to Ruth’s.Â To remain in Christ means to cling to Him, to refuse to be budged under pressure, to never allow loss to cause us to leave.” (October 9 – the day of Matt’s CT/PT scan and the day before his surgical biopsy)
God, today I am grateful for Your joy.Â For giving me the ability to face our uncertain future with humor.Â I’m grateful for friends who bring cheer and laughter into each day.Â I’m grateful that I can cling to You and experience joy in the midst of dark and troubling news.
“Peace comes with authority, not with answers!”Â (October 16 – the day we are supposed to receive pathology reports)
God, today I am grateful for Your peace.Â For granting us both the peace that defies all human understanding.Â For being our port in the midst of this storm.Â For being our rock in the midst of shifting and changing sands.Â I’m grateful that every time we receive new information about Matt’s condition, You supply us with a fresh dose of peace and calm.
As I begin the next lesson – on patience, no less – I can see God’s hand in all this.Â Each week, God has provided those truths I most needed specifically to face the challenges that lay before me.Â Each week, God’s word has touched exactly the parts of my heart and mind that needed it the most.
For all these things – and so many more – I am grateful.