Friday, August 31, 2012

Nothing Much Happening

I try to be fairly regular in putting an update on the blog but really, nothing is happening right now.  Dennis only has to go to the hospital once a week right now for blood work.  So far his blood work has staying within normal ranges.  His fatigue does seem to be improving.  We are thankful for that.  He was totally overcome by it during the treatments.  We are not sure if it will return when he starts back on the chemo and the trial drug in mid-September.  He won’t have any more radiation and that is helpful in reducing the fatigue but chemo and the trial drug also are fatiguing.  

So, Dennis is resting at home most days.  Since he can’t drive, he is stuck there unless someone stops by and takes him someplace.  Feel free to call and offer him to go someplace with you.  He most likely will take you up on it just to get out.  If he isn’t feeling up to it, he will let you know.  

Brooke started school on Monday.  She has reading homework every night and for the most part, Dennis helps with it.  After reading with her a few times, I remembered what I hated most about teaching second grade – listening to beginning readers.  She is doing well at just six months home and Dennis is awesome with working with her on reading.  If you have not had the privilege of seeing Brooke and Dennis together, you are missing out.  He is an awesome Daddy and they really have a special bond.  We were concerned when all of this happened that it would overwhelm her but she has done fine with it.  

Keep praying.  We don’t know what the long range outcome of this journey will be but we do know we can trust it into the hands of our heavenly Father.  I’m often asked how we are doing.  Honestly, this is tough.  My answer will depend on what day you are asking.  I’m learning to cherish each day and not sweat the small stuff.  Dennis’ faith shines through.  For both of us, our hope is not in the outcome of the treatments he is going through, but in the eternal.  The Bible compares our life on earth to a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  As hard as it is to face the unknown, it is only a moment compared to the eternity we will spend with our heavenly Father.

I ran across this poem recently:

He Knows
by:  Phil Gruenbaum

Lord you have searched and known me; known all my family too.
In times of fear and deepest strife you’ve shown me what to do.
This one seems one step beyond, the sadness grows and grows.
But this I offer to my friend – “He knows, He knows.”

“What was God thinking?” we might ask - and put Him to the test.
“We want your will and trust in you - is this Your very best?”
The answer not like lightning comes, like Faith it slowly grows
But lights go on, when comes the dawn – “He knows, He knows.”

He knows the inexplicable, and knows your thoughts afar,
And though you may not understand, He meets you where you are,
Your sadness is His sadness; He feels your grief and woes.
He’s bearing burdens with you now – “He knows, He knows.”

He’s with you in the front, the back; He “hems” you side to side.
You can’t escape Him East or West; in Him you must abide.
So when inside your heart dismays, and faint your spirit grows
With longing for His gracious love, “friend, be assured He knows.”

Teach me to do your will, oh God! Your Spirit lead me on
Preserve my days in righteousness till final rest is won
And then at last with saints, and You, and loved ones – all of those
We’ll join the chorus, all who say, “We know now as He knows.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Between

We are "in between" right now.  Done with round one of treatments.  This included radiation five days a week, chemotherapy every day and a trial drug two days a week.  We are so grateful to so many friends who gave Dennis rides to his various appointments.  Not only did you provide rides, you were a source of encouragement along the way.  So for now, Dennis is resting from the fatigue brought on by this assault on his body.  He has days when he does well and others where he is very tired.

Many of you have asked what we could use right now.  If you are around during the day, Dennis would love company and a chance to get out of the house.  If he is too tired to go someplace when you call, he will tell you but please keep trying.  Like I said, some days are better than others.  He will start a new round of treatments on September 19.  He will be on the trial drug again two days a week and will start a higher dose of chemotherapy but this time he will take it for five days and then be off of it for 23 days.  This cycle will repeat for the next six months minimum as long as there is no change on his MRIs.

In the last few months we have often wondered if this tumor has been present for a long time.  Lower grade tumors can turn into the grade four tumor that Dennis had.  Of course, that makes us think, "What if this had been found sooner?"  When we were talking about this the other night, Dennis put it into perspective.  He said, "If they had found this earlier, we would not have Brooke and I would do anything to have her here and have the chance to teach her about Jesus."  Our perspective continues to be refocused on the things that will matter for eternity.  Over the last year while we pursued Brooke's adoption, God has been changing our hearts and seeing more and more what is important.  It won't matter when we stand before Christ if we had a new car or big house or money in the will matter what we did for Him.

Yes, this is a hard path we are on.  It is not easy. It is extremely hard to live day-to-day wondering if all we are going through is working.  If Dennis will be one of the few who survive this type of cancer long-term.  I have shed more tears in the last few months than I have shed in a life-time.  But ultimately, none of us know what today holds much less tomorrow.  What matters is what we do right now.

Dennis has been teaching Brooke about showing her love to others by what she does.  How true this is for us as well. We show our love for Christ by how we love and serve others.  Right now, we are often on the receiving end of others outpouring of love.  We have seen Christ in so many of you.  We hope that those we encounter along this journey see Christ's love in us as well.

Pray for us:

  • Pray that we will show Christ's love to the people we meet as we journey through Dennis' treatments.
  • Pray for complete healing for Dennis.
  • Pray for us that we will not be discouraged.  There are times when this is overwhelming.
  • Pray for our peace.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Round One Is Done

As of last night, Dennis is done with round one of treatment.  He finished his radiation and chemo yesterday.  Now we have four weeks where his only medical appointments are for blood work once a week.  He is thrilled to be done with the radiation.  Overall he has handled the chemo well.  The anti-nausea pills have kept him from being sick.  The only time he had problems with either the chemo or the trial drug was when he did not take the pills.  

At the end of these four weeks he will have an MRI to check on if there is any regrowth happening.  The doctors have told him that this MRI will not tell us anything but because of the trial drug they need to do the MRI.  He will have another MRI in about 12 weeks which will be far more informative.  

He will start the next round of treatments on September 19.  He will then have chemo at a higher dose but only for 5 days each month.  Two days a week he will receive the trial drug as well. 
Dennis is doing well so far.  He still suffers from extreme fatigue but he is hopeful that will subside during his  4 weeks off of treatments and that it won’t be as debilitating when he starts treatments again as there will be no radiation in the next round.  They say it can take 4-6 weeks before the radiation fatigue wears off.  The only other side effect has been some loss of hair at the site of the radiation.  This should grow back in about 3 months. 
I marvel at the peace Dennis has in the midst of a very uncertain future.  His faith and trust in Christ is a blessing to many.  I certainly know it is an encouragement to me.  There are times when all of this is very hard to handle for all of us.  We want to grow old together and watch Brooke grow into adulthood.  We want to not have an uncertain future hanging over our head all of the time. We want to know our financial needs will be met as we transition to disability pay.  But, for all of the unknowns, we have one very firm known – God loves us now as he has in the past and will in the future.  He will carry us through this journey.  It is hard, I’ll admit that freely.  There are days the tears just can’t be stopped.  Then there are days where peace and hope prevail.  Yes, there are a handful of people who have survived this horrible cancer without it coming back and so we continue to pray that Dennis will be one of those survivors.  If not, we know that God will walk along with us on this road.  

Dennis read a book awhile back and I’m reading it now.  This book Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman is an amazing look at what makes a true follower of Christ.  We tend to think that following Christ makes everything in life wonderful but this book challenges that view of being a Christ follower.  I know it had an impact on Dennis life and is on mine as well. 

Since the very first days of this diagnosis, we have prayed that God will be honored and glorified in our lives and our walk with Him.  You will see as at our best and at our worst as we go through this but we pray that you will see Christ in us.  

Prayer Requests:
Peace – please pray for all of us that we will know the peace that comes from God alone. 
Healing – please pray for complete elimination of any remaining cancer cells.
Brooke – please pray for Brooke as she processes through all the things that have happened in her life this year. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Thank You Is So Inadequate

We were blessed today to have many friends help us with our yard work.  Friends from work, church and Brooke's school spent the morning trimming bushes, spreading chips, weeding, moving rocks, edging, trimming...  Our yard looks amazing.  We ended the morning with an awesome lunch provided by friends as well.  We can't begin to say thank you to all of you who helped.  This has taken a huge load off of our shoulders.  You all were a blessing to us.  Thank you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Moving Forward

One More Week
As of today, Dennis has one week left of radiation treatments.  We will be so glad when these are done.  From the beginning, these have been difficult for Dennis.  They have produced a lot of fatigue.  This should subside over the weeks following radiation although fatigue is also a side effect of the chemo he is on but at least one of the causes will be removed.  He also has said that the treatments themselves are “freaky”.  On Monday they changed the radiation treatments to focus on a smaller area but with more intensity. 
On Thursday he will complete the first cycle of the trial drug program.  He has four weeks off then.  Actually, as of next week Tuesday, he will have four weeks off of all treatments before starting the next round in mid-September.  All he will have to do during this time is weekly blood tests.  It will be a nice break.
****When Dennis ends treatments next week, he is stuck at home all day since he is unable to drive.  Although at this point he struggles with fatigue and can’t do anything for long periods of time, he certainly loves to get out of the house.  If you are home during the day and would like to stop by, go out for a meal or run an errand, he would love to go with you.  If he isn’t feeling up to going, he’ll tell you but try another time. 
When Your World Gets Turned Upside Down
We’ve had enough time now to have some of the dust settle from our world being turned upside down by Dennis diagnosis.  By no means does that mean that we are coasting through all of the changes in our lives but the shock of it is starting to be less overwhelming.  A new normal begins to settle in but is not a comfortable normal.  We are learning, and we hope growing, through this transition.  Here are some of the things we are learning:
It’s ok to ask for help even if it is with something we “should” be able to do ourselves.  It often isn’t anything directly related to Dennis’ diagnosis that overwhelms us but rather the accumulation of small things that seem like mountains. 
Related to that is accepting the help that is offered.  Warning – if you offer to help, we will most likely say yes. 
I can’t meet all of Dennis’ needs.  Dennis has been blessed by so many of you who have called, sent notes, offered rides or stopped by.  Having other people to talk to about all that is going on is a blessing.
Words have a lot of impact.  Those of you who encourage us are a source of blessing in our lives.  We need to hear the positives and hopeful things you share with us. 
Live today but with eternity in view.  Each day is precious.  Whatever the circumstances, we want to savor them and not be worried or fretting about what tomorrow may bring.  How we invest each day matters for eternity but the cares of our earthly future are in the hands of our loving heavenly Father.
I can’t fix this.  I am a fixer by nature.  If there is a problem, how can I make it better?  What is the plan?  God is stretching me more and more in the area of trusting and waiting.  For a fixer, this is a hard lesson. 
Although our view of our world was turned upside down, it did not surprise God.  He loves us and has allowed this to enter our lives at this time.  It is hard to understand at times but there is a peace in knowing He is still in control, still loves us and never changes.
Prayer Requests
  • Strength for this final week of treatments. The fatigue is overwhelming at points.
  • Good weather on Sat., August 18.  We have a large group of friends coming over in the morning to get our yard work caught up.
  • Healing.  Please continue to pray for Dennis complete healing.
  • Keep Brooke in your prayers too as she starts school in a few weeks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I'm Still Here

In the last two days, God has very tangibly reminded us that He is still with us, knowing and meeting our needs as we continue to battle Dennis' cancer.

Yesterday, a friend from church made a meal for us.  That in itself was a blessing but there is more.  When she stopped to purchase the meat for the meal, the person in line with her told her she wanted to pay for the meat.  This person had received a gift certificate and wanted to bless someone else with it.  Our friend saw that this women’s shirt had a reference to God on it and realized she was a fellow Christ follower.  She shared with the person that she was actually buying the meat to make a meal for us to help ease some of our load.  So, three families were encouraged by God reaching down and telling us, “I’m still here.”

Then, Dennis has been going out to breakfast with a family friend one day a week.  When they went out this morning, another friend was at the restaurant and gave Dennis an envelope.  It was a monetary gift toward the cost of Brooke’s adoption.  Once again we heard God say, “I’m still here. I know your needs.”  International adoptions are expensive and when we were adopting Brooke, we accumulated some debt.  As we face Dennis’ income being reduced due to being on disability, this debt has been one of our concerns.  This gift was a reminder to us that God knows this need and is providing for it.  It was a faith builder to remind us to continue to trust Him for the remainder of this need in the weeks and months ahead.   

This week when we went to our small group Bible study, we were discussing the message from Sunday.  One of the questions we talked about was areas where we struggle the most with our relationship with God.  One of the choices was realizing we are loved by God.  Frankly, that was where I was at but I couldn’t even discuss it with the group because I knew I would fall apart.  Sometimes it is so hard to face all that we are going through and each additional burden just seems like more than we can take.  In fact, on the weekend we thought we might be losing our golden retriever.  I remember thinking, “Do we really need this sorrow too now?  What more are you going to ask of us Lord?”  (Thankfully she is going to be fine.) God knew exactly when we needed to see Him reaching out in love to assure us that He is still here.  He knows our sorrow and burden.  He loves us in the midst of a mighty storm. 

I’m always encouraged by the humanity of the people in the Bible. When I see that they struggle just like I do, it helps me know it is ok.  Psalm 13 is so much of where I have been living.  Yes, this all can seem so overwhelming but the first few verses of this Psalm are only the beginning, it ends with the hope we can only experience as we know Christ. 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
     light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Prayer Requests and Answers:

Dennis is sleeping better.  This is a huge blessing. 
Dennis had the dosage reduced of one of the meds that makes him tired during.
Prayer Request
Pray that Dennis does not experience seizures due to the medication reduction.