Thursday, June 28, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Today is our ninth anniversary.  Where did those years go?  We were talking last night about all we have done in those short years.  We've had the chance to travel to many parts of the US and been to Canada and China.  We've been blessed with friends who have stood by us in the easy times and now in this difficult season.  We met on a Christian online site and as they say, the rest is history.  God brought us together and has helped us grow along the way.  He gave us our beautiful daughter as well.  As our wedding programs said, "This is the Lord's doing, it is marvelous in our eyes."

We do not understand why God has allowed Dennis to get brain cancer but we do know that He can be trusted now in a difficult time as much as He is trustworthy in good times.  The year ahead will have its joys as well as the trials of fighting this disease but God will walk with us through it.  On the days when it all becomes overwhelming, He will be there, of this we are confident.

Today Dennis gets his stitches taken out.  We are also stopping by his workplace to say hi and have lunch with some of his co-workers.  We hope to get up to Wisconsin Dells also.  We spent the first two days of our marriage there and have a favorite place to eat up there.  Not sure what else we will do.  It depends upon how tired Dennis is at that point.

Keep praying.  I pray specifically that as Dennis starts chemo and radiation soon that it will do get to the exact cells it needs to.  We continue to wait and see what God has for us as we journey down this path.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

While We're Waiting

This morning as I pulled into work a song was on the radio that so hit home with me. 

While I'm Waiting
By John Waller

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord

We are waiting but also worshiping and serving along the way.  The road ahead is a tough one and we do not know the earthly end of it but we do know the Lord has it all planned out and he will carry us through.

Dennis came through yesterday's procedure well.  He has some pain where the port was inserted but otherwise is doing well.  He does have some medication for the pain that is working well and they told us he should be doing better with pain in a few days.  He is only taking one other medication.  He is hoping he can get off of that one soon as it makes him very tired after he takes it.  He will have his stitches out on Thursday. 

Keep praying. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Monday Prayers

Monday will be the first procedure in preparation for Dennis' treatment. It is a fairly routine procedure that will insert a permanent port in his chest so he does not need IV lines each week for treatment. Please pray this goes easily.

We were blessed to be in church this morning. It was good to see friends, feel their embrace, and hear their words of support. The message was a blessing as well.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Some Days are Tough

We are just two short weeks into this journey but so much about our lives has changed.  It would be so nice to just step back into our "normal" for a few days or even a few hours but for whatever reason God has chosen to take us down this path.  Some days it is just so hard.  I'm there today.  It is all so overwhelming.  Those of you who know me well, know I am a "fixer" by nature.  I can't fix this.  I'm having to learn to trust more and do less.  I thought I had learned something about waiting and trust while we were adopting Brooke this last year but it is nothing compared to this.  At least then I had something constructive to do, now all I can do is just trust and lean on God.  I was reminded today that He is the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow.  We have seen him take care of yesterday and today.  He will take care of tomorrow and go with us through this time.

We both struggle at times.  Please pray with us that we will keep our focus on the many blessings God has given us.

  • Friends to hold us up when we are overwhelmed.
  • Brooke to add laughter and joy to our days.
  • Family to walk along with us and help with the day-to-day aspects of life.
  • Co-worker, friends and family who offer to help - and we will be taking you up on those offers.
  • Notes of encouragement from so many sources.
  • The assurance that God is with us and loves us.
Some prayer requests:
  • That our hearts and minds stay focused on our good and faithful God.
  • That we sleep well.
  • For Monday when Dennis has an IV port placed to be used for his treatments.
  • For the chemo and radiation to be effective.
Jeremiah 29:11'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'

Friday, June 22, 2012

What's Ahead

Dennis continues to recover well from the surgery.  He will get his stitches out next week.  He is eager for this to happen as they are starting to pull.  The next couple of Mondays he has doctor's appointments for various aspects of preparation for the beginning of radiation and chemo.  They told us he will most likely start treatments either July 9th or 16th.

He is able to up and about more now but is stuck at home since I am back at work and he can't drive.  He still needs to rest a lot so in some ways this is OK.  So far he has not gotten too bored.

Here is a picture from a few nights ago.  One of our friends gave Dennis a short haircut to help blend in the area where they cut it to do the surgery and the rest of his hair.  I'm thinking it looks pretty good on him.  

Keep praying.  Pray that the side effects to his therapy are minimal but that it gets to the exact cells it needs to destroy.  Pray for us that we will keep our focus on our wonderful Savior who is walking this road with us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Choosing to Live

We are choosing to live.  In light of the uncertainty of the long-term outcome of Dennis' battle with the brain tumor, we are choosing to live each day and not have everything surround the fact that he has a battle with cancer to fight.  We will enjoy and celebrate whatever time God chooses to give us, building memories along the way.  Not always the easiest thing to do and certainly there are times when we are overcome with what we are facing but then we are reminded that no one knows how long or short of a life they will have.  It does change your perspective when you think your time may be short. What matters for eternity is in much sharper focus for us.

Today we enjoyed time together doing simple things around the house and even took a short trip to the store for ice cream and some dog food. After supper we went outside and sat on our deck.  We took pictures and got in a pillow fight with Brooke.  It was so good to hear her giggle.

Keep praying.  Your prayers are being heard and answered.  We have seen it in the peace we are experiencing each day.  We love hearing from you too.  Your words are often the voice of encouragement we need.

More from Yesterday

We wanted to write a quick note yesterday but were exhausted after the doctor visit.  As we said yesterday, we are waiting on one more report.  No matter what this report says, we know that the possibility of reoccurrence of the tumor is very high.  Please continue to pray that Dennis will be one of the exceptions to this.  We are praying specifically that the chemo and radiation will kill any remaining cells.  We know God will be walking with us through this time and trust Him with the outcome.  We continue to see ways in which He has prepared us in advance for this time.  We talked with our insurance today and were assured of our coverage for his care.  There is also a study Dennis will be participating in that has had success in making the chemo more effective.

For now, Dennis is healing from the surgery.  We will have a planning meeting for his treatments in early July and his radiation, chemo and study participation will begin shortly after that.

We have set-up a website for those who are interested in helping us with needs as they arise.  We will need your email address to send you an invitation to join his support team.  Some needs we know we will have will be rides to appointments.  Please send your email to Ellen or Dennis and we'll send you an invitation to the group.  We decided to do this as a private group as the website suggests that public groups have security risks associated with them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oncology Visit

We met with the oncology team today. We are still waiting on one pathology report that will tell us if this tumor is more or less likely to repond to the chemo. Please pray for a good outcome from this report. We serve a mighty God who can heal no matter what this report says.  Dennis will begin chemo and radiation soon.  He needs to heal some more before they can start this.

Our hope is in Christ.  Please keep us in your prayers. It was hard to hear this today but this does not change our hope and trust in Christ.

Enduring and Despising

Hebrews 12:1-2 -  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

As I was reading yesterday, the words "enduring and despising" jumped out at me from this passage.  I've always understood Christ's agony in Gethsemane as he prepared for the cross as that of someone knowing the horror of what lay ahead but these two words added a different understanding of that time for me.  He endured and despised this journey.  Those are strong words.  I can relate to them very well these days.

It is hard knowing we are in a battle for Dennis' life.  We are enduring this time and despising it.  Oh, to just go back to "normal"!  But we are also trusting.  James 1:2-4 describes this time in our lives so well:    Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

We are holding hard onto our hope in Christ to take us through this time with joy and grow us in our faith in ways we never could have imagined.

We know you are praying for us.  It gives us strength to face each day.  Today we will learn more about the next steps in this battle.  Pray for us to have peace as we meet with the doctors and to have wisdom with any decisions we need to make.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Note from Dennis

This is Dennis.  Good morning and I am writing to say I am better each day. I know Ellen was busy with the communication and wanted everyone to know how I was doing. I'm still very tired and need more sleep, but we have everything to help get me better each day. It's very nice to be home and to have my first Father's Day yesterday.

I'm so thankful to everyone who has helped me and Ellen these many days. I know this was a hard time for her this past week with new decisions and I wasn't there to help too much. I don't know how to say thank you to so many people, from the doctor who discovered this so quickly, to the great team at UW Hospitals who did the surgery so quickly and are giving me the best care now.

Thanks to everyone at our church and families who have joined us so quickly to taking care of things we needed this week, so many wonderful friends at Amfam remembering us and helping with important information we needed, our good friends from China who keep us in their hearts and Ellen's sister who has stepped in and taken care of Brooke. Thanks for everyone helping Ellen with many things this week way more than I can know. I'm so thankful that I am able to be home getting better each morning. I'm really in God's hands watching what he has planned for me and ready to learn about the next set of treatments. He's put so many blessings in place ahead to prepare us for where we are today and I know things will be better soon.

Thank you to all of you who have been upholding us in prayer.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Today we celebrated our first Father's Day as parents.  We had a good day.  We started by giving Dennis his gifts and cards, enjoyed breakfast, had several friends stop by and had a special supper together.  It was a good day.  

Dennis continues to improve and you should be hearing from him on the blog soon.  He was going to post today but is just to tired tonight.

Thank you again so much for all the ways you are reaching out to support us as along the way.  One way we know we will need help is with rides for Dennis to speech therapy and treatments when they get going. Since Dennis can't drive right now and I will need to return to work soon, having people who can help in this area will be great.  If you live in the Madison area and could help with this occasionally, please let me know and I'll add you to the list.

Tomorrow the doctors meet at the UW to go over new tumor cases and will discuss Dennis' situation and make recommendations for treatment. We will meet with the doctors on Tuesday to learn what options are available for him.  Please pray for the doctors as they meet tomorrow.    

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How Are You Doing?

We hear this question a lot - How are you doing?  I'm not sure there is a good or consistent answer.  What we do know is God is with us and watching over us.  He loves us in all of this and it has in no way shaken our faith in a sovereign and loving heavenly Father.  We walking step-by-step, trusting in his abiding love and care.

We have asked several of you to pray for us in the morning.  Waking up is hard.  All of this roles in fresh at that time.  Please keep praying for us when you first open your eyes in the morning.  This morning was the easiest it has been so far.

Dennis is doing well.  He tires easily at this point but that is to be expected less than a week after surgery.  He likes to hear from you and feel free to stop in if you get a chance.

TEAM DENNIS:  If you did not notice the link on the right for Gilda's Run/Walk, please take the time to check it out.  The people that Dennis work with are starting a team in his honor for the Gilda's House charity run on Oct. 21 in Madison, WI.  If you are a runner/walker and would like to join the team, click on the link and sign-up.  If you would like to sponsor the team, you can do that too.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Week Ago Today

A week can change so much.  Last Friday at this time Dennis, Brooke and I had a lunch date at Mullens in Watertown.  Just a fun time at an old fashioned ice cream parlor.  Only God knew the path that was ahead of us.  

We are home and enjoyed being in our own beds.  It was so good to be with Brooke last night too.  She was very glad to see her Daddy and Mommy home.  Last night when she prayed before going to bed she thanked Jesus for Daddy getting better.  We are being open with her about this and we've told her Daddy has to get stronger but then he will be taking medicine that will make him feel bad for awhile.  We will talk about each step as we go.  We were able to talk with a children's expert on how to address this before we left the hospital and our adoption agency also has staff we have talked too.  

Dennis is doing well today.  He was up most of the morning, took a shower and is resting now. We are finding it much easier to focus on the positives now that we are out of the hospital and not thinking too far down the road.  Often my mind and heart goes back to a verse I memorized as a child.  It says this:  

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phil 4:8

It helps me to focus my thinking on those things that are true and of good report. Here are a few I keep repeating:
  • From the first night in the emergency room, the doctor told us that with brain tumors, the more they can get out, the better the possible outcome - they got all of the tumor out in Dennis' case.
  • Your overall health and age play a part in recovery - Dennis is in good health and is not old.
  • His evaluations by various therapies were very good.  The tumor did not do lots of damage.
And of course, there are so many of you who are encouraging us and praying for us.  We are overwhelmed by this.  We are so blessed to have you in our lives.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

We're Home

We are home.  It was so good to walk in the door and just be in familiar territory.  We are so appreciative of all the words from friends through emails, text, voice mails, visits and phone calls.  Thank you.  For those that have offered to help, we will be taking you up on your offers.

We are trying to face each day and each step as it comes.  We don't know the long-term but we will do what we can now.  For now, that means resting and healing from the surgery.  We will meet with a team of doctors on Tuesday to discuss what follows.  Please pray for wisdom for each of those helping him.

My verse for the day is one I have known forever but is so fresh today.

Proverbs 3:5&6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Road Ahead

We got the pathology report today.  Unfortunately it was not good news.  The tumor is a grade 4 tumor.  This is a cancerous tumor and as a grade 4 is the most aggressive grade that can be given.  Obviously this is disappointing.  Of grade 4 tumors some are more responsive to radiation and chemotherapy than others.  They are doing more extensive testing to see how responsive this tumor will be to treatment. Even though they got all of the tumor there are still cells left behind that can cause reoccurring cancer. With a grade 4 tumor it is very likely this will happen.

Although this is not good news the doctor said Dennis' age and overall health will be important.  He will begin radiation and chemotherapy soon.  There is a team of doctors who will meet on Monday to go over his case and discuss all the possible approaches to his care.

For the next couple of weeks Dennis will concentrate on healing from the surgery.  They can't start the next phase of treatment until he has healed some.

God is walking along this journey with us.  He is meeting our needs in so many ways. Keep praying for us.  We are being supported by your prayers.

11:00 Wednesday

Busy morning here.  PT was in to help evaluate how Dennis was doing regarding balance and walking.  He did well with the evaluation.  There are some areas they will help him with to get his response time a little quicker but overall he did very well.  The main surgeon (this is a teaching hospital so you see lots of doctors) was also in a little while ago.  He said if PT was ok with him going home, he was as well. If everyone agrees we should be able to go home tomorrow so that gives us time to send the spaniels for a doggy care to Mom's for awhile.  They tend to be active and noisy and neither of those things will help Dennis rest well.  We also have an OT review to do before we are cleared to go home.

The doctor also told us that the MRI report looks like the tumor is all gone.  We will most likely be gone before the pathology report comes so we will get that when we see the doctor to have the stitches removed in a few weeks.  Dr. Hanna told us that there will be follow-up treatment in order to get any remaining cells.  If that treatment is radiation only or also chemotherapy will depend upon the grade of the tumor.

I continue to be amazed at the peace God is giving us.  We are experiencing the results of your prayers on our behalf.  Last night I was reading a book our pastor wrote, "God in the Storm" and he says in there to, "Allow your brother's and sister's in Christ to share the burden that will crush you if you try to bare in alone."  Thank you for helping us bear this shock and burden over the last few days.  We know we are not in this alone but have many friends helping us walk along this road.

Today I have been thinking about 2 Corinthians 4.  I'll be honest and say, this is tough.  It is not a road we would have chosen but this passage ends in how I feel about all of this: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Wednesday Morning

We both slept well last night.  It was nice that they were only checking on Dennis every 4 hours.

The doctor told us this morning that we will most likely not get the pathology report until Thursday.  He said the MRI looked good in that it looks like the tumor is all gone but they are waiting on the radiology report to know for sure.  Once all of these reports are in they can determine what the next steps will be.  He has the head bandage off now also.

We continue to trust God for the future and know He loves us and will walk this path with us.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

3:13 pm Tuesday

It has been a good day.  Dennis got up and sat in a chair late in the morning and did OK with that but it did cause some vomiting. They gave him something to settle his stomach. He has eaten a little today and even did a lap around the ICU unit.  We are waiting right now for them to come and get him and move him out of ICU to the regular unit.  He is very tired at this point. Some of that is due to the medications and also residual from the anesthesia. They say he will be tired for awhile.

Brooke really was having a rough day today so Karen, my sister, picked her up from day care and came into the hospital. She saw Daddy briefly and then we went and had something to eat together while Dennis rested.  After spending a little more time with Daddy, she and I went and talked about what she was thinking.  It was a good chance to reassure her that Daddy is doing well and that we would be honest with her as to how he progresses.

Please continue to pray for all of us.  

9:00 am Tuesday

Dennis is sleeping.  He had an MRI to check on how things are going and is resting well now.  When he wakes up they will help him get up and sit in a chair for awhile.  They are hoping to have him out of ICU later today.

Please uphold Brooke in your prayers.  She is doing well on the surface but we know she is struggling.  Both my sister and her day care teacher said she was a little too bubbly.  She will come up tonight to see Daddy and we are hoping that will help.  I'll have supper with her also and take some time to talk and cuddle.

I'm tired.  I slept ok last night but they were in every hour to run Dennis through some evaluations so it was not the best sleep I could have had.

Over Night

The night went very well.  They came in every hour to check him, ask him questions and have him move.  He continued to improve in the quality of all areas.  His speech is doing very well.  He is struggling less and less for words and the words and sentences are very clear.

The second surgeon was in this morning and he said he feels as if they got all of the tumor.  We will have to wait to later in the week to know more.  He will have a MRI again today to evaluate the surgery site and see if they can see anything remaining.  They are starting to remove some of his tubes as well.

Keep praying!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Updated - Last Update for the Day

We are exhausted.  Dennis has talked with me and is doing well. He has a lot of pain but the medications are helping with that.  His speech is clear and most of his words are exactly what they should be.  He is responding to directions and moving all parts of his body as requested.

We will know much more after we get pathology reports in the coming days.  Please continue to pray that the Great Physician will touch his body and heal him completely.

Thank you to all of you that have prayed today.  We know the peace that can only come from this.  If you called and I didn't get back to you or emailed, please forgive me.  Know I am listening to messages and reading notes and drawing strength from them.  You are a blessing in our life.

I don't have the best cell coverage either so it makes talking hard and when I do talk on the phone, Dennis is disturbed so we are trying to keep it quiet for him.

Some of you have asked about Brooke.  She is doing well.  She understands a lot of what is going on and will most likely get up to see Daddy tomorrow.  My sister, Karen, is staying with her and keeping her schedule as normal as possible.

Keep praying.  The road ahead is unknown to us but known to our Lord.  We are choosing to live in trust and faith that He will continue to be walking with us as He already been.

Doctor's Report

5:30 pm - Dennis is in recovery, responding to commands and has the breathing tube out.  His speech is affected at this point but that was expected.  In may improve in the next few days on its own or he may need some speech therapy.

The report from the doctor is very positive.  The tumor is a primary tumor which means it originated in the brain and is not from cancer at another site.  He feels he removed at least 95% and will know better after and MRI tomorrow.  These type of tumors are not classified as benign or malignant but rather are graded with low grades being the best.  Grade 1 are only in children so we are praying for a grade 2.  Follow-up treatment will be determined after we know the grade and MRI results.  Most likely we will know that on Wednesday.

They say Dennis will be up and moving tomorrow and most likely in ICU for about 24 hours.

I have known the peace that comes from the prayers on his behalf today.  Thank you all.

Our Prayers

Last week we watched our wedding video. Brooke had been wanting to see it and it was so much fun to watch it with her.  There was a song we had sung as a dedication that the Lord has been bringing to my mind this weekend.  This is our prayer in the midst of this trial:

Many now are watching the footsteps that we take; 
Many soon will follow in the choices that we make. 
So let us then be faithful to be what we should be, 
And leave a good example that they can clearly see.

Chorus: Be an example of the believers in word and in conduct; 
Be steadfast in love, in faith, in purity of life. 
For those behind us, let us stand within the gap and make a difference in their lives;
Be an example to follow Christ.

Let us then be watching the weary, day by day,
Looking to encourage and to lead them in the way; 
To run the race with patience; On Jesus fix their eyes,
And challenge them with excellence, that they might win the prize. Chorus


2:20 pm.  Dennis is still in surgery and doing very, very well.

Thanks and please keep praying.

God Walked Before Us

1:00 pm - We just heard that Dennis is in surgery and doing well. 

He got this Mickey Mouse from his former boss and took it with him until just before he went into surgery.

Dennis Just Before Surgery
Dennis and I have talked about the ways God has prepared this path for us when we did not even know this need would come.  Here are some of them:
  • This was not found until after Brooke was adopted - it would have stopped the adoption.
  • We changed insurance in December that made the our primary hospital the UW hospital which is our best option for this in the area.
  • My sister lost her job in March and is able to take over the care of Brooke and our dogs.  She is just living at our house and helping keep life stable for her.
  • Dennis has pleanty of time of remaining this year due to the fact he had saved all he could for the adotpion time.
  • Dennis' sister is on vacation this week and able to be here and bring his Mom too.
Our family and friends from around the world are loving us and praying for us.  We are feeling the strength that comes from that.  Yes it is hard but we know God is good and in control

Psalm 42 continues to be a source of strength.

Off to Surgery

11:40 - I just left Dennis. He is in the final stages of surgery prep. He was in good spirits and confidnet that God loves him and is walk along with him through this.

Heading down soon

10 - He will be going down in a few minutes.

Surgery Time

The surgeon was just here and they expect to do surgery around 10. He should head down around 8:30 and 9.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Please Pray

Some of you are aware that we learned on Friday that Dennis has a brain tumor. He will have it removed on Monday. We will post uodates here.

What we know at this point is that he has a tumor. We will learn much more after surgery.

Dennis stared to have some trouble recalling words a few weeks ago so he went in to see the doctor. An MRI was done and found this problem.

We covet your prayers as we walk down this path. We are trusting our heavenly father to walk along with us and that He loves us. Please pray that He will be glorified in all of this.

Psalm 42 was shared with us today by our friend Nancy. We understand David's heart as he wrote this Psalm.