Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End Reflections

Dec. 31, 2012
So, today ends another year.  It is a year I will look back on with very mixed emotions.  There are definitely two halves to this year with the dividing line being 5:30 pm on June 8th. 
2012 began with the anticipation of Brooke’s arrival.  We had completed most of the paperwork and were hoping to get a travel approval before the Chinese government shut down for Chinese New Year but we missed it by just a few days.  Every day counts in this long drawn out process and some count more than others.  Thankfully we can trust the loving hand of our heavenly ather to have details worked out that are never too early and never too late.  Our travel approval arrived and we were able to plan our trip to finally bring Brooke home.  Wow, it seems like yesterday and at the same time, it seems like a lifetime ago.  We boarded a plane for China on February 29th.  After a brief stop in Beijing, we finally arrived in Shanghai.  In a room at an orphanage, Brooke walked into our lives.  Although we planned for her arrival, we could never have imagined what an incredible gift from God she would be in our lives. 
We were as ready for her arrival as any new parents can be.  We had completed several days of intense training on the needs of older adopted children, we had read books, we had talked with other parents… All of these resources were great, but frankly, Brooke is one of those rare exceptions to older child adoption.  She bonded with us quickly, adapted to her new life in our family and in general has made this whole process seem incredibly simple.   
Those first couple of months flew by.  Brooke learned English rapidly, loved her school, loved our dogs, made friends both at church and school…life as a family of three was just starting to settle into a new normal until -----
June 8th at about 5:30pm
I had just gotten home from work and the phone rang.  It was our family doctor.  Almost immediately my heart broke.  The MRI Dennis had earlier in the day showed a mass in his brain.  Every speck of normal was shattered.  We were being told to head to the ER of a large hospital in our area.  They would be expecting us.  Pack a bag and head there as soon as possible.  I remember calling a friend to see if we could drop Brooke off for the night.  I had to tell her three times that Dennis had something in his brain before she could grasp what I was saying.  I think we all felt that way.  I’m still thankful for these wonderful friends who helped us through that night and helped Brooke be ok too.  Since you all know the “rest of the story”, we were plunged into the world of cancer that night.  Brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and trial drug programs became our new normal.  We went from the joy of a new child to the fear, stress, anxiety of a very serious health situation with one phone call.
Our “normal” had shifted and will never be the same again.  We no longer take time for granted.  Each and every day is precious.  We don’t put off for tomorrow anything that we can possibly do today.  We cherish the big and small things that make life precious.  We grab a camera to record a moment far more frequently.  We live far more conscious of just how quickly life can change. 
We have grown this year.  Not just from a family of two to a family of three, but in far more important ways.  I’ve seen Dennis grow as his intense desire he had before his illness to live out his faith in day-to-day, has taken deeper meaning and focus.  God has been teaching me to wait on Him and trust Him.  We have seen God at work in our lives through the hands of those around us who have helped us in too many ways to even count. We have watched Brooke gasp that Jesus loves her and has always been watching over her even before she ever heard His name.  Overall, we can say, “God is faithful.”  He is faithful in the joyful and good times and He is faithful in the hard times. 
2012 was not what we expected.  Our plans would have looked much different but even though it has at times been extremely painful it has been good.  What is ahead for us in 2013 is yet to be seen but we know we can trust in the One who knows the future.    

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blizzards, Christmas and Updates

Last Thursday when Dennis was supposed to go in for his treatment at the hospital, we were in the midst of a major blizzard.  At one point I considered driving him in since I was home from work but then thought it was not the best idea.  Instead, one of our friends accepted the challenge to give it try and he and Dennis headed to the hospital.  They made it there and back safely.

Christmas was good. We enjoyed celebrating Brooke's first Christmas. Dennis was able to enjoy time with both of our families as well as our own family Christmas.  It was two busy days but with a nap here and there, he was able to participate at both family celebrations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  

Snuggling with Brooke in her new play wedding dress.
Dennis will have an MRI in two weeks.  He has no symptoms to suspect that there is tumor regrowth but the only way you know for sure is when they do an MRI.  Keep this in your prayers and that we will not be too stressed by the anticipation of this test.  When he was in for one of his treatments recently, he was told that the other people on the drug trial he is doing are all doing well.  This means a lot to us coming from someone who sees people with this type of cancer on a routine basis.  

As we close out 2012, we want to say thank you for all of the ways you have reached out to us this year.  We think of you often and marvel at the gift of love and friendship you are in our lives.  Thank you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"What If" Can Cloud "What Is"

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the last six months of our lives have changed the way I think.  Once someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, the way you think about just about everything changes.  It becomes scary to just think about the future.  How do you plan when you no longer know if six months or a year from now, every aspect of your life may need to change?  You begin to live much more in the immediate moment.  I find myself grabbing a camera far more frequently.  At the same time, you cannot allow the “what if” to cloud the “what is”.  

I’m reminded of the Psalm 118:24 –“This is the day the Lord has made.   Let us rejoice and be happy today!”  And so I am learning to live and be happy in today.  Counting the many blessings along the way and endeavoring to trust God with the future. 

Instead of focusing on the “what if”, here are a few of the “what is” that help me to rejoice and be happy today.
  • Dennis continues to tolerate the treatments he is receiving.
  • As of his last MRI, there has been no regrowth of the tumor.
  • We are looking forward to a first Christmas as a family of three.
  • God has blessed us with friends who support and help us in so many ways.
  •  Brooke is a gift from God that we could never have even imagined.
  • We have a great medical team meeting Dennis’ needs and good health insurance too.
·         God has been with us each step of this journey and will continue to be moving forward.
It is so easy to focus on “what if” but God never told us to do that.  He does tell us to trust Him now.  He has promised to be faithful and we have seen that time and time again.  

Dennis has two more rounds of chemotherapy.  Unless something would change with his status, all treatments will be done on February 27th.  He will have an MRI in early March and then every eight weeks thereafter.  

Prayer Requests
  • Dennis has an MRI on January 8 – please pray it shows no regrowth of the tumor.
  • Please pray that Dennis’ fatigue is minimal for Christmas.  We plan on spending some time with both of our families and would love for him to enjoy these days and not be overwhelmed with fatigue.
  • Pray for complete healing. 
We hope you each have a wonderful Christmas. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thank You - Christmas Angel

Our door bell rang tonight a little after 10pm but no one was there.  After trying to figure out why someone would ring the bell and leave, we thought that maybe we had  a package delivered via UPS (they work long hours at this time of year) so we opened the door.  There was a small, wrapped box on our doorstep.  We cautiously opened it and we're overwhelmed by the gift.  There was a note inside but it gave us no clue as to who our Christmas Angel is so we are hoping you see our thank you here and know how much you blessed our hearts tonight.  Thank you!!!!

Eph 3:20-21 "Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Dennis mentioned that this morning he was talking to Brooke about the special offering that is being taken this week at church.  (Brooke has been saving her money for it for about a month.)  Dennis was telling her that what she gives to God is between her and God and not about what other people know about what she gave.  We can hardly wait to tell her about what happened tonight and how our Christmas Angel did exactly what they were talking about this morning- blessed us with this gift that no one, not even us, knows who they are or what they did, only God.  Thank you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chemo Week

This week will mark the half-way point in the six month cycle of chemotherapy Dennis is schedule to complete.  Last month went fairly well so we are hoping that will be the case once again.  He will take the chemo pills Wednesday-Sunday before going to bed.  It does make him extra tired on these weeks but other than that he tolerates it fairly well.  He did come down with a nasty cold a few days ago so that is sapping some of his strength as well.  Last week’s blood counts looked good so he should be able to fight off this cold with no problem.  

So often people ask us how we are doing.  To be honest, most days we are doing great.  I’m not sure if this is because it has become our “new normal” and we have gotten used to it or if it is the deep, settled peace that we both are experiencing.  I’m sure there are elements of both of those but mostly, we feel the strength of the prayers that so many of you are offering on our behalf.  Of course there are days when it is harder than others.  Often, I find those days come when my focus is off of Christ and I think too much about the “what if”.  

One of my favorite passages of scripture is:
Phil. 4:8.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

So, if I keep my thoughts focused on what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, worthy of praise my thinking focuses on these things - Dennis’ last MRI looked great and he is doing well; I will choose to praise God for this and trust Him for whatever the future holds. 

Dennis spent much of the weekend at home resting.  Brooke and I did some Christmas shopping for Dennis on Saturday and then in the evening we were able to attend a Christmas dinner.  It is a special night for international students.  We hosted a table.  On Sunday we enjoyed our first measurable snow of the year.  This was the first snow Brooke had ever seen and she had so much fun.  We enjoyed watching her experience this.  After a nap, we went and got our Christmas tree.  The local tree farm takes you out on a wagon and all you have to do is select the tree and cut it.  They load it on the wagon and haul it back for you.  They even put it on top of the car for us. We had a good time doing it.  It is sitting in the garage waiting for us to put it in the house.  So, overall it was a great weekend.   

Prayer Requests:
Pray that Dennis handles the chemo well this week and that it kills any remaining cells.
Pray that Dennis gets over the cold he has quickly.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Date with Daddy

Brooke and Dennis had a date today.  Since Dennis can't drive it has been a challenge to find ways for them to have time together but they got some quality time together today. Dennis came up with the idea to take her to the Fireside Theater.  For those of you not from around here, the Fireside is a dinner theater.  The Fireside has fun shops to look around in, brunch and then a theater production on a square stage.   Since Dennis is unable to drive, this gave them the chance to shop, eat and be entertained all in one place and without too much exertion for Dennis.  I was the chauffeur for the day.   I dropped them off, went Christmas shopping and then picked them up.

Brooke and Dennis in one of the shops at the Fireside Theater.
 Brooke loved getting all dressed up for her special date.  The Christmas production this year was a musical version of A Christmas Carol. They both had a very special day together.

Dennis and Brooke having brunch.
Dennis continues to do well.  He still struggles with fatigue.  Even though much of today was spent sitting he was very tired when I picked them up after the matinee.  

Please continue to pray for Dennis as he goes through the remainder of his chemo.  He has completed three months of this cycle and he has three more to go.  He continues to have treatments with the other drug on Wednesday and Thursday.  The drug he gets those days leave him very tired as well.