Thursday, April 30, 2015

#tbt (Throw Back Thursday)

Yesterday Avery and I were looking through some old posts. We especially got laughing at a couple short videos we found. It was such a short time ago the girls were that little and going through the posts made me so thankful for this small space I've created on the internet.

As I look back at the years, its obvious our story has had twists and turns, but always its had God's grace covering it all.

(Age 2.5)


(Age 3.5)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wax Museum

Avery's fourth grade class has been diligently working on a major project. They each chose an important historical figure and researched and learned about him/her. In art class they painted a portrait of the person, in computer class they typed their paper. 

All that work culminated into a "wax museum" day. They each dressed as their character and stood next to a display they set up, then opened it up to students, parents and family. Each time someone pressed a paper button, the "wax figure" would come to life and give a prepared speech about themselves. Avery was Amelia Earhart.

I asked Avery what her favorite thing she learned was (Aiden happened to be in the vicinity when I asked her) My favorite thing I learned was that she flew around the world (Aiden: well, she didn't quite) and how she was (Aiden: a tomboy?) brave. We're a family...when one of us learns about Amelia, we ALL learn about her. :)

The event was really well done and I was impressed how much Avery learned about research and writing a paper, all while having fun. The grandparents who saw her raved and yesterday my mom called to tell me Avery made the front page of our local paper.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 31

Week Two out of treatment and, for the most part, each day I was feeling a little better. Somedays I can hear the "Rocky music" start to play in my head and I want to do all things and be all things right now! And then my body bosses me around and tells me its not time to go full speed yet, somedays not even half speed.

And so, to keep me from getting frustrated, I dwell on what I'm getting back, not on what I've lost. For instance, I've been walking the girls to and from school each day, which is about 1/2 mile round-trip. Two days this week I was dressed up and out, during what used to have to be nap time. I've even added some basic strength training to my mornings, doing what I can and skipping the parts I can't.

Pain is no longer the main theme of each day, instead most days its managed with a little Advil here and there.

As anxious as I am to be back to normal life, it also scares me to think about integrating back into life, currently in progress. I'm afraid I won't be able to handle the demands placed on me, or more likely, the demands I place on myself. I'm afraid of what I'll see around me when this fog I've lived in finally fades. I wonder if I'll ever be able to look at life through something other than the cancer perspective.

Not that cancer perspective is all bad. I pondered this after attending a funeral this weekend. Cancer has given me the gift of understanding how fleeting life is. The knowing that we are here on earth for just a VERY short time, and one day each of us will die and the rest of our time will be spent in eternity. Of course we all know this, but in watching people go through life, I'm not sure how many people KNOW this. Know it in a way that changes the way they wake up each day and do life. Know it in a way that changes Who and what they live for.

Ecclesiastes 7:2 says You learn more at a funeral than at a feast—After all, that’s where we’ll end up. We might discover something from it.

We need to be thinking about how short life is and how it will end. Cancer makes it so you have to think about the end. I like that.

That reminds me of what is now (with the passing of time) a funny story to me. We got the news on a Friday (in the middle of September) and didn't meet with the surgeon until a full week later. While Shaun spent the week pretty sure his wife was going to die and his children would be motherless, I spent the week wondering how I could convince the surgeon to do surgery ASAP so I'd have time to recover and still run in my marathon the end of October. 

When we got out of the meeting with the surgeon Amy and Shaun were skipping and dancing, completely giddy with the news that I was going to live. Since I'd never considered that I might die (hello...its the 21st century!), the news that it was going to be a long, multi-step process was devastating to me.


I had a wrap-up appointment with Dr. K (the oncologist) this week. I'll still do multi-year follow-ups with him, but for all intents and purposes, his part is done.

From the start, he was so gracious about implementing the plan handed down from the Sloan Kettering oncologist...a clinical trial, really, that she's used with just over 60 patients. Its basically the traditional plan, but with the order of the chemo, radiation and surgery switched around.

Shaun did copious amounts of research on it and told me many times that in another 10 years, we'd be seeing this as the new standard. These months later, Dr. K admitted that he's been reading more and more about this new treatment plan and thinks that in the next five years this is how it will be done. I'm forever grateful to him and his staff for helping me get through the chemo piece of all this.

This song was on my lips this morning, even though I only knew one line:

You were there when it all came down on me
And I was blinded by my fear
And I struggled to believe
But in those unclear moments
You were the one keeping me strong
This is how my story's always gone

I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy, I've seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

Thank you for your continued prayers. You can't know the difference it makes to know people are standing with us. You have shouldered so much of this burden so that I didn't have to and you've been so faithful to love on us. My heart is full.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Project 365, Week 17

We're getting what we can out of spring, even though the temperatures are still so cool. I'm thankful for continued health and for the strength to be hanging out with my kids.

April 19
The kids were a bit restless and it was a beautiful day, so I took them for a picnic lunch to our local state park. Water and rocks is all you really need, but they also have very easy "hiking" trails.

April 20
The Hulk, working for a lego set.

Mom, I think I love legos fourth.
Oh yeah...what comes before legos?
I love:
1. God
2. my mom
3. my family
4. legos

April 21
The girls and I took a slow, easy walk and admired spring and the life it brings.

April 22
One of three roofs that Shaun really needs to get done this year and now that tax season is over, they are digging in. Nathan and Jeremiah were doing the edge and getting brackets in place.

Baking cookies. I'm not entirely sure if they like to help or if they just like to be in the vicinity of the needs-to-be-licked beater.
April 23
These two snuggled up together while the Red Sox were playing. Here Avery is showing Aiden how to crochet, later she was quietly talking him through balls and strikes.
April 24
Another day, another dollar...still working off that lego set.
 I went to a work lunch, so Shaun took Aiden roofing and then around noon they changed and went to the office for the afternoon. Be still my heart!

 This year the girls had the choice between softball and soccer. Avery chose soccer and we convinced Amanda to go along with it so we'd only have them in one sport, on one team. (She will tell you we made her, which I guess is another way you could put it ;) Either way, its a good sign that spring sports are underway!

Amanda was all grins when she came over and told me that Coach had asked her to play goalie for him again this season.
April 25
A full day that started with swim and T-ball.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Things Will Work Out

This week I finished Unbroken, which I'd started back in January but had put away (its a difficult subject matter). This paragraph stuck out to me, reminding me what a gift it is to have HOPE!

Given the dismal record of raft-bound men, Mac's despair was reasonable. What is remarkable is that the two men who shared Mac's plight didn't share his hopelessness. Though Phil was constantly wondering how long this would go on, it had not yet occurred to him that he might die. The same was true for Louie. Though they both knew that they were in an extremely serious situation, both had the ability to warn fear away from their thoughts, focusing instead on how to survive and reassuring themselves that things would work out.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Doing Battle, Week 30

Its been one week and I haven't stepped foot in a doctor's office! Someday soon I'll go a whole week or more without even talking to one. Looking forward to that.

That reminds me of a conversation Shaun and I had recently. Most likely we were talking about cancer (sadly, many of our conversations somehow come back around to that) and I told him about a blog post I'd seen about a year ago, right around our 20th wedding anniversary that stuck with me. My Wife is Not the Same Woman That I Married (good 'ol Google helped me find it, even with the ridiculous search criteria I entered). wife isn’t the same person that I married. When I met her she was a 22-year-old college student. Now she’s a 27-year-old mother of two. Sure she still has the same DNA, the same biological identity, and she’s still the kind of girl who can appreciate a good beer and a fart joke. But she’s not the same. That’s because I married a human being, not a mannequin. I said my vows to a person, not a computer program.

“People sometimes change,” says the wise sage.

No, people always change. They never stop changing. Life is change. Everything is moving, everything is transforming. Everything is changing, all of the time. 

Divorcing someone because they change? You might as well divorce them because they breathe.

I’m not making light of it. I know that sometimes people change in a painful and inconvenient manner. I know that my wife could change in ways that don’t cooperate with my projections of how she should be and feel and think.

Shaun said, Yeah...foster kids and a cancer ministry...just like I thought when I married you, which of course made both of us laugh because it couldn't be farther from the truth. I spent 10 years of marriage being convinced I didn't want any children because...WHY would you do that?? On purpose! 

And being a healthy person, committed to fitness and nutrition, I didn't have an understanding of or tolerance for medical "stuff".  I had a suck-it-up mentality for myself and expected the same of others. Safe to say I was even judgmental of sick people, thinking in most cases, they could have taken better care of themselves to prevent whatever ailed them. And who wants to hear about all the symptoms and meds and emotions anyway?

But God.

He takes our weaknesses and, if we are willing to surrender to Him, he does a work in us. Because when he takes someone completely unqualified (ME!), he gets all the glory. 

No one can say, well of course Lisa does such a great job with those kids that come in and out of her home. She's always loved kids and is such a natural nurturer. Foster care seems like such a reasonable progression for her.

Or...Lisa? Ministering to others with cancer? Totally makes sense. She's always had an affinity for all things medical. She enjoys learning the "lingo" of "meds" and procedures appreciates the extra attention that a doctor offers.

No, God uses me inspite of me. I am lacking and fall short is so many areas and my heart is sinful. But God sees that and knows its a perfect opportunity for his power to work through me and for him to get the glory he deserves. Though my inadequacy list is long, my desire to be in his will, doing his work is enough for him to work with.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 1 Corinthians 12:9

Back to the article, as a side note (which isn't really a side note at all), I'm so thankful for the man who has faithfully loved me even though I've changed in a "painful and inconvenient manner". In so many ways, I am not the woman he married, and yet he loves me and stays by my side.

Since you're here, I bet you are wondering about my status. Which, by the way, is still so incredibly amazing to me how many people genuinely care and have stuck with us for so long. Thank you for that, and for your faithful prayers. It means so, so much.

I have shown improvement over the last week as my body has started down the road to recovery. Surprising to me was the morale boost that came with the end to the chemo pills. It seemed like such a minor part of the radiation/chemo thing, but the first day I didn't have to take the pills just really made me feel happy.

There were blessed moments of normalcy when I was starting to feel like a regular human again. I did too much over the weekend, but my body is not shy about letting me know when I've overdone it.

I'm looking forward to this week and even more progress!

The seasons change, and you change, but your Lord abides evermore the same, and the streams of His love are as deep, as broad, and as full as ever. ~Charles Spurgeon

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Project 365, Week 16

It was so great to have the kids around on school vacation...the weather was amazing so they were happy playing outside, but most days also had a little extra-special tucked in, thanks to grandparents and aunts.

We dealt with teenage drama, but Shaun was around after being gone for three and a half months! He's incredibly patient and wise and logical and I'm always amazed at how appropriately he handles situations. Thankful for him and I know one day all these boys that we've had in our home will be grateful they we guided by such a man of integrity.

There were celebrations in our household, but they were brief because...well, life goes on. That's just the way things happen around here.

April 12
This was a survival-mode kind of day. I was in great pain for much of the day and Shaun was working his last Sunday at the tax office. So he talked me into letting the kids watch a movie after they'd done their chores, even though it was a beautiful day out. Some days you just gotta go with it, I guess.
 April 13
A morning I will never forget! A beautiful representation of Team Lisa was waiting in the parking lot of the cancer center to celebrate with me as I wrapped up radiation and chemo.
When we got home, it was a beautiful day. The kids thought it was warm enough to don bathing suits and have a water fight (it wasn't but they did anyway). They set themselves up with a picnic while I met with R's social worker.
After she left, I got a call from a DCF worker I didn't know. Our agency knows we are closed for respite care right now, but this worker was representing "S", who we've had multiple times over the last couple years. He was getting released from the hospital (because he'd had a seizure at school) and the doctor didn't want him to go back to college right away. I agreed, only because he was recouping and so was I...sounded harmless enough.

He got settled in and seemed genuinely happy to see us again. I've kept in touch with cards and care packages, but I hadn't really heard how he was doing so it was wonderful to hear that he is soon to finish out culinary school and has an externship already lined up. Back in July when I dropped him off at school I really didn't think he'd last two glad I was wrong!

That night he woke me up at 12:30, he was feeling seizure sensations and was frightened. We sat on his bed together, I rubbed his back and prayed and we waited out each wave. At one point I called the doctor. At about 3:00 AM he was feeling better but knew he wouldn't have time to get me if he actually had an episode. So, I made a bed on the floor in his room and "slept" the rest of the night there. Thankfully, he didn't end up having any problems and started feeling better as the week went on.
April 14
For Amanda's birthday, Auntie Sarah bought Amanda a horseback riding lesson. Then ALL the snow came, but Sarah didn't forget about it. This day the snow was gone and Amanda was on school vacation so it worked out. Sarah picked her up and brought her and reported that Amanda seemed to be a natural. She loved every minute of it, especially the part when she was doing it on her own. I fear Sarah may have started something.

Neither Avery or S could get the TV turned on, and I've never known how to do it, so Avery had to settle for "watching" the Red Sox game online. The girl is a crazy fan...she checks the box scores in the morning, too.
April 15
Late in the season last year my mom bought a lot at a campground. Its set on a beautiful river in the quiet country. We met Amy and the kids and Bobbi set them up with fishing poles.

Shaun had a brief block of time so we stopped in to see him. LAST day to file!!
He got home at 8:30 PM and the kids were anxious to celebrate his birthday. Happy birthday AND happy last day of taxes (kinda sorta)!
April 16
Shaun's mom took the three kids to Old Sturbridge Village. It was a beautiful day to be walking around outside and since its spring, they even got to see some baby animals. It was reported that the potter's shop was the most popular.

April 17
We sent both R and S to Youth Convention/Fine Arts and they had a phenomenal time. Pop and Kiki took the younger three to the nursing home service and a concert and kept them overnight.

I can't stand word problems, but here's one even I can do:

Shaun and Lisa had five kids. They gave five away. How many kids do Shaun and Lisa have left? The answer...(a miraculous) NONE! So we cashed in a gift card and did dinner, then came home and watched a movie that was not animated. It was wonderful!
April 18
Back at the kid thing at 8:30 in the morning, poolside....
...and then T-ball.
After, Sienna and the kids came over on a perfect weather day. Avery made everyone sandwiches and they had a little picnic.