Monday, September 29, 2014

Doing Battle, Week 1

When I checked my calendar to see what week I was on in this strange new reality, I was surprised that this is Day 10.  Just ten days ago my doctor called with news that would change our "normal", life as we'd known it.

Positive for colorectal cancer.

We were sent for blood work and a CT Scan and then this last Friday we met with a surgeon.

Shaun and I often talk about how so much of life is about expectations.  Your experiences in the big things and the little of life are largely influenced by your expectations.

For example.  A friend goes on and on about a movie they saw that was just incredible and you must see it!  The acting was top-notch and the story was riveting.  Best. Movie. Ever.  When you go to see it, you are expecting the best movie ever, but because your expectations of it were so high, its likely not to measure up.  Maybe it IS a really good movie that you would have really liked if you hadn't been expecting it to be aMAZing.  You leave thinking, Hmm...I think I missed something.

That theory proved to be correct on Friday when we met with the surgeon.  Shaun had spent the week thinking the worst...that in six months he was going to lose his best friend and would have to explain to his kids why they didn't have a mother anymore.

I, on the other hand, spent the week thinking treatment would look something like surgery, a couple days stay in the hospital and then be on my merry way in life.

So when we heard at the appointment that it is "very treatable", Shaun let out the breath he'd been holding all week and I thought, well duh, of course its treatable....its the 21st Century!  But then she went on to extend the three-week version I had in my head to a nine-month plan.

While Shaun and Amy walked out of the appointment skipping and rejoicing, it was a harder day for me than when we got the diagnosis.  In some ways on diagnosis day, I had been glad to pinpoint the cause of my chronic pain and also reality really hadn't set in yet.

The treatment plan set forth, while it IS a plan towards recovery and healing, is much more intense than I had prepared myself for.  I had spent exactly two minutes reading on the internet before I decided if I had time to read it would be my Bible instead, with the words of this song ringing in my head:

The voice of Truth tell me a different story, the voice of Truth says 'do not be afraid'.  The voice of Truth says this is for My glory.  Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth.

I'll leave you with a portion of Shaun's brilliant email to family and friends...from the ecstatic, isn't-it-wonderful-she's-going-to-live perspective (the place where I'm inching myself towards :)):

Yesterday’s meeting with the Dr. was a crossing of the Negev to scout out the promised land.  It is inhabited by a fierce people  and there are giants in the land,  but the land also FLOWS with milk and honey.  To quote Dr. Ayers “it is very treatable”. 

This week will be a great week.  Dr. Ayers is close, personable, glowingly referred and carries a very impressive resume.   She is very available and we have her cell number to contact her directly any time.  Lisa has a green light to run as much as she is able and some better pain management tools which means a resumption of her mentally therapeutic exercise regimen.  And we have a plan.  We will meet with the radiation/chemo Dr. this week and have an MRI done to confirm the cancer has not spread.   The schedule is for 6 weeks of daily radiation/chemo to start in about 10 days to shrink/eliminate the tumor as aggressively as Lisa is able to handle.  She is strong and tough.  Pending factors including how well she recovers from the treatments, possibly the first surgery shortly after Christmas.

Everyone in the body of Christ has different gifts and we are promised to not be challenged with more than with Him we can handle.  I and by extension much of my family are not great orators, prayers, or speakers (except for maybe Aiden, that boy can call fire down from heaven when he gets going).  However, through Him we are tough and strong.  We have a plan and a big fight ahead of us, both of which are comforting to me,  we can fight.  Things you fear in an oncology consult like survival odds and “inoperable” were never mentioned because they did not apply.   Lisa’s cancer is not related to a genetic defect, so our kids and all her blood relatives are not at greater risk because she has it.  If all goes according to Dr. Ayers' plan, by next summer she will be cancer free and have a glowing testimony of His faithfulness.

We know He is sovereign and has a master plan for all of this.  All things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Project 365, Week 39

Good morning!  The sun continues to shine and I'm incredibly grateful for that.

There is so much to write here.  I've given lots of thought to how I want to handle my cancer journey as far as the blog is concerned.  I have an old-fashioned prayer/daily journal that I write in everyday but I thought something here would be good too.

We confirmed this week that it is indeed going to be a journey.  I know God is going to have His hand in all of it and I want to have something to look back on to be reminded of His goodness.  

Writing is therapeutic to me, it helps me sort out my thoughts and feelings and that in some small way it might help someone who reads here is awesome.

Also, I know that most all of you who read our family's blog care deeply about us and after these six years of me blogging you actually know us pretty well.  For many, this will be your best source for updates.

And so, I think I may do what I did for our house project last year and post a weekly update here on all things related to battling cancer.  Once I decide which day that will be (probably Mondays) then you can decide whether you want to read that day. ;)

The short version of the meeting with surgeon on Friday is that the cancer is "very treatable".  We have an attack plan that we will begin implementing in the next couple weeks.  We're going to beat it and that's the good news.  More to come very soon.

Here's our normal/awkward/strained/blessed week:

September 21
One day removed from telling the kids.  In an effort to show the kids I am still Mom and not the sick person in the house, I took the boys for a hike/walk while Shaun had the girls at rehearsal for the day.

September 22
My sister and brother visited and Tim and Lainie stayed long enough to get the girls from school.  The girls were ecstatic and dove right in to talking and giggling.  So sweet.
 September 23
Shaun, Aiden and I ran errands all morning so when we got home Aiden was anxious to be productive.
 September 24
Like she's done since first grade, Avery comes home, sits at the kitchen table and gets her homework done.  4th grade is generally about 30 minutes of homework, plus reading.
 Treasures from our walk home.  Aiden picks me pretty leaves almost everyday now that they are available.  In a get well card he made me he had Avery transcribe the following:

Dear Mom,
I love you and I hope you feel better and you are the best mom I have ever known.  You are so perfect that I could pick every flower in the earth.
 September 25
My dad stopped by to drop some things off and snapped this picture.  Love these boys who I get to hang out with everyday.  We're partners in crime while the others are away at school during the day.
 I spied Amanda out on the swing by herself, looking like she was doing some thinking so I went out and talked to her.  Lots of really tough issues to grapple with right now, but at least for this day we were able to sort through some of them.
 I often find these two tucked in a corner together reading.
 Aiden and I joined the crew for the last dress rehearsal.
 September 26
We've done lots of music in the house this week and God has made himself known in some really cool ways through it.  Amanda put on Oceans before school and she and Shaun were so sweetly singing it together.

At 2:30 we had our first visit with the surgeon.
 Opening Night!  Cast and crew did an amazing job.
 September 27
A perfect day to watch lots of soccer.  Aiden's the blurry one in the blue shorts.
 He was quite pleased to see all his fans waiting for him.
 Shaun stands right near the action so he can coach/encourage.  Amanda was happy to play goalie for half the game.
 Avery and Amanda are in blue in the center, working the middle together.
 I went to tuck them in after church and found this...

They love non-school nights because we let them sleep in the same bed together.

Here's to another week to experience God's love and goodness!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Faithful to the End

Happy Friday!  After a day of rain yesterday, the sun is appearing big and bold and strong this morning.  I love that.

It seems impossible that it was just one week ago that we received the diagnosis.  In the time since I have been loved on by family and friends and prayed for most hours of the day from all parts of the country.  It feels as if those prayers have, in a sense, carried me through the week.

I was thinking this was maybe the longest week of my life, but Avery was born four days late and that was also a really looonng week.  :)

I  have had such a sweet, ever-present sense that God is with me.  The God who created the heavens and the earth and is all-powerful, yes.  But more so, I've experienced the Jesus who so tenderly got down on the ground so He could look little children in the eye.  The Jesus who stopped in the middle of the mob clamoring for Him to find out who'd touched the hem of His garment.

There is so, so much to be thankful for and I've been dwelling on that inexhaustible list.  Not in a Pollyanna, looking-for-a-ray-of-sunshine-in-the-clouds kind of way, but in a deep knowing of how very blessed I am...I never want to forget all of His benefits.

He has been faithful, He'll be faithful again.

When I'm feeling afraid
Full of uncertainty
When the plans that I've made
All fall apart

When the future's unclear
And all that i can do is wait
There is a promise
Echoing in my heart

He will be faithful to the end
He will provide time and time again
He will be faithful
So faithful to the end
He will be there when all else fades
His love is stronger than my pain
He will be faithful
So faithful to the end

There is grace I can't measure
Mercy I don't deserve
There's forgiveness that's endless for me
Oh what a blessed assurance
To know how deeply I'm loved
And I'm always reminded
That He will be all I need

Monday, September 22, 2014

Jesus Commands My Destiny

You can't imagine how bizarre it is to be writing about an experience with cancer so intimately.  I wouldn't say I didn't think it could ever happen to me but I did think I had better than average odds of skipping it because of how well I've always taken care of myself throughout my life.

But sometimes our plan isn't THE plan.

From the very beginning, I've had such a matter-of-fact peace about this whole thing.  Because I truly believe that God does have a plan.  This is His Plan A for my life.  And though I don't like it and I don't understand it, I still trust Him completely.

I have an assurance that He is the same good God who I've trusted and followed after my entire life.  The One who has been faithful...always faithful.

The hardest thing so far has been having to tell the kids and those I love.  Its been harder on people than I could have ever anticipated...or maybe better put, the love that people have for me is greater than I ever comprehended.  But now I realize...and wow.  The outpouring of support has been overwhelming and so humbling.  And I feel so undeserving of such intense love and care.

We have an army of people praying on our behalf and I really think that is taking much of the burden off of me.

A friend reminded me of the story of Lazarus, Mary and Martha.  "Jesus knew something they didn't know.  They were living in the obvious present reality, but Jesus had another plan and changed their reality."

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Project 365, Week 38

I'm at a loss for how to introduce this week.  At first I thought I might leave it at the face value of the pictures and protect my secret longer but as time has gone on I've realized I do want to share it here.  

Much of this week was consumed with cleansing, testing, waiting, telling, processing, praying.  Late Friday we got the news that I have cancer.  Specifically, colorectal cancer.

I know...crazy.  I wish it wasn't so hard to read that...I haven't found a way to just work it into conversation so that its not so startling.

The people we've told have lots of questions that we simply don't yet have answers to.  There will be more testing this week and so we hope by late Friday we'll know more.

September 14
While Shaun and the girls were at rehearsal, R and I drove 45 minutes to see Z's football game.  He played nearly the entire time and it was so good to see him out enjoying it.  I sat next to his mom and her boyfriend and did my best to pour love into them.

 September 15
These two brainiacs playing some countries of the world game.
 September 16
Sitting at soccer practice isn't so bad when you have a new book and tea.
 September 17
Amy took the girls to the Big E, because her six kids weren't enough to wrangle.  :)  Shaun and I are not fair people, so we mostly deprive our kids from that experience....the girls had a blast!

 September 18
Traditionally, the football team gets together for a pasta/carbs meal the day before a game.  This night it was our turn.  How much food is enough to feed an entire football team??  I've hosted many, many events but this was unchartered territory for me.

Amy came over and helped me prep and serve and clean up and gave moral support.  Together, along with Shaun's huge contributions, we fed about 30.  We were SO happy to see R hanging with these teammates and enjoying cool status for the evening.

The boys were all polite and cleaned up after themselves.

 September 19
Game time!  Aiden had just gotten home from a week at the Cape with Pop and Kiki and we had just gotten "the news" and we were feeling like we wanted to be together as a family.  So we skipped regular Friday activities and went to R's game.

 At halftime Shaun took the kids to run around in a big open space.
 It got a little chilly!
 September 20
We called a family meeting at 8 AM before our day really kicked off.  Shaun had us all sit close, huddled in a circle as he told the kids that their mom has cancer.  Its a time I will never forget.

And then we were off and running to football practice, rehearsal and soccer, just as it should be.

 Later that evening, some of our closest friends came over with food.  The kids ran wild, the adults talked and ate and laughed around the table and then we moved to the living room where we read beautiful Truth from the Bible and then these friends who all serve God passionately and have big, beautiful hearts laid hands on me and prayed.

Its a time I will never forget.

So what now?  I really don't know much but I will check back here this week at some point.  Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Milford Half Marathon

You've been anxiously awaiting a race recap, haven't you?  I have to put it here, because this is the only place I have to look back and remember what/how I did.

Since the beginning of June I have been training diligently 5-6 days a week....doing the hard stuff like speed work and tempo runs and getting up out of bed when I really want to just stay there another hour.

I've slowly but surely been making progress and since this race was advertised as flat and fast, I had high hopes of setting a personal record this day.

You know what makes me crazy?  Excuses.  Whatever that saying is about excuses are for people who can't get the job done.

But in a less callous way, the realization struck me anew that we all have a story.  There are struggles and challenges and victories that have happened along the journey even to get to the starting line.  But I'm certain that showing up on race day and fighting through will make you stronger.

We had overcast skies with temps in the 50s.  There were plenty of water stations.  The crowds thinned out after 1.5 miles.  A beautiful course in pretty neighborhoods and along the beach.  Really, perfect conditions.

This is the second time Sarah, Laryssa and I have done a race together and it was a lot of fun being with them.  It was also handy that Sarah's house was close by so we could do showers.   Nathan helped with logistics and met us a couple times on the route and Tony and the baby were waiting at mile 13, just before we hit the sand.

Ooph...the sand!  The last .10 miles was thick, fluffy felt like I was running in slow motion, but the end was in sight!

Honored to run alongside these two.

There was some discrepancy in the actual distance.  The course was set out as 13.35, which is roughly what Laryssa's device said.  Mine clocked it at 13.02....maybe it was the shortcut I took?  ;)

Among females 35-39, I finished 11 of 53.  My official race time was 1:58:31, a 9:03 pace.

Now my sights are set on the Marine Corp Marathon next month in D.C.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Project 365, Week 37

Good morning!  Its been a nice slow morning after playing the how-much-can-we-squeeze-into-one-day game yesterday.  I left for my race at 5:30 AM.  While I was gone Shaun: got the girls to voice lessons, Aiden to soccer practice, the girls to their soccer game, everyone to rehearsal at church, then to a lease signing.  Then we met up at cousin Alayna's birthday party, then church, then pizza, then C4's hockey game.  Lots of fun in one day.

That lease signing for the two offices we have means we are at 100% full occupancy.  Its been a long, burdensome road to get here...we are rejoicing!

Here's a peek at our week.  (I rhymed that in honor of Aiden, who is rhyming everything he says right now.):

September 7
R and I left early for church so he could do video during the service and I could take pictures of the ministry fair in between services.

We are adding a 4th service to the weekend starting next month, which is going to require more people to make it all happen.  In the couple weeks of this "campaign" for volunteers, we added more than 400 new people!  Very exciting to see what God has in store.
From there we went to Shaun's mom's for a picnic.  It was such a pretty day to be outside and we got to spend some time with some of Grandpa Tom's family, who we hadn't seen since the wedding.
 September 8
Avery got super sick, starting the day before with a nasty headache.  I made her a bed on my bedroom floor in the middle of the night so she could be in close proximity to the bathroom.  She laid there listless all day, but really didn't want to be alone.

So Aiden did his brotherly duty and watched the iPad in the room while she was in and out of sleep.  Then Amanda thought it only fair that she join once she was home from school and her homework was done.
 September 9
One of Colombo's suppliers offered him a couple spots in their skybox at Fenway and he passed them on to Shaun and I.  Definitely a really nice way to watch baseball.  It was a beautiful evening and it was so good to spend some alone time together.

Thanks to Kiki who took on a sick kid, soccer practice and such.

 September 10
The thing that did best in our garden this year was the marigolds.  I planted some around the edge because that's what my parents always did.  I used to think they were so stinky but now I kind of like the smell, because it reminds me of those days.  Forever my mom and dad will come to mind when I see/smell marigolds.
 September 11
Remembering 13 years ago when the world changed.  For many of us its still raw and seems like it happened "just yesterday", for others its an event read about in history books.  So very thankful to be an American.

Beautiful evening at soccer practice.
 September 12
Shaun and Amanda working through Math homework.  As I was half listening to them, I was taken back to my high school days when he and I would sit (close) on the couch for hours and hours as he helped me through Algebra.
 September 13
Race day!  Beautiful running conditions with beautiful running partners.