Sunday, November 23, 2008

Instructions for Giving Thanks

I love instructions. I am one of those weird people that actually reads the instructions before I do something. I drive my husband nuts, because I insist on reading AND following the instructions when we are putting something together. He drives me nuts on an equal level, because he insists on not reading the directions. (Shhh! Don't tell him, but I'm usually right! 9 times out of 10 he ends up going back and reading the directions.)

We have found a system that works for both of us. I read the instructions out loud while he is doing the building. It works!

There are also instructions for giving thanks. In God's Word, a beautiful passage in Psalms contains the exact recipe for giving thanks.

Psalm 100
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

I realized today that I needed this recipe. Those closest to me know how difficult this time of year is for me. Thanksgiving is the kickoff and it doesn't end until after Christmas. It isn't the usual holiday depression that plagues many people. For me, it's anniversaries. Thanksgiving 1995 marks the anniversary of when Nick was diagnosed with cancer as a 15 month old baby. He had subsequent surgeries and chemo in the weeks in between the two holidays. Christmas 2003 marks the anniversary of when Keith was diagnosed with cancer. December 2006 also marks when we were told that Keith's cancer is terminal. December is when Nick almost died from an infection in 1997, and my Grandpa died that very same day. So, it starts at Thanksgiving and ends after Christmas.

I need the instructions on how to give thanks. Each year I try to be very determined and not let the past rear it's ugly head. Sometimes I win; sometimes it wins. The last couple of years have been especially difficult, mainly because I can't quite shut out the thoughts that this might be Keith's last holiday with us.

These instructions have given me a tangible way to stop and give thanks for what I have and for what God has given me. As I listened to the sermon about this passage this morning, I began to think about exactly what I was thankful for.

Here's my top 10 list of things I am thankful for:
1. Jesus Christ is MY Lord and Savior. I could NOT do this that is my every day life without HIM. Thank you Lord!
2. My extended family. They aren't perfect, but they're mine. I love each and every one of them. They are a blessing to me daily. Thank you Lord!
3. Keith. I am thankful that I still have him with me today. There isn't any reason that he is still on this earth, except that God wants him to be! Thank you Lord!
4. Nick. A repeat of #3. I am thankful that I still have him with me today. Only God knows why. Nick has survived only by divine intervention. Thank you Lord!
5. Kacie. She is the sweet blessing at the end of a hard time. Her birthday is January 3. God blessed me with this sweet child at the perfect time. I HAVE to put aside all of the difficult junk and focus on her, celebrate her. Thank you Lord!
6. My friends. I don't have tons, but I do have a few that are my heart friends. They are the ones that I can call anytime, day or night. They are the ones that I can cry with, scream with, laugh with, or be quiet with. Thank you Lord!
7. Freedom. I am thankful that I have the freedom to be or do anything. So many places in the world don't allow women the freedom to even walk down the street, much less worship. Thank you Lord that You allowed me to be born in America.
8. My church. I am thankful that God has provided us with a place to worship and learn about Him. Thank you Lord!
9. My house. It isn't huge. Right now it isn't perfectly clean, but it's mine. We have shelter over our heads. We are warm and dry. Lots of people don't have that. Thank you Lord!
10. Heaven. I am thankful that God has prepared a place where cancer doesn't live, finances aren't a worry, cars don't break down, cats don't need expensive surgeries, children don't struggle with school, and life doesn't wear you down. Thank you Lord!

That's my Top 10 List. You may think it's a self centered or hokey, but it truly is what I am thankful for.

I'd love to hear what you are thankful for this week. If you're led to, please share.

Have a blessed week this week.


Monday, November 17, 2008


We are still adjusting to the new chemo routine. Keith has been on a chemo schedule where he has had to go every week before, but one week was the hard chemo and the next week was lighter. It is taking some adjustment for me to get used to Keith feeling bad every Monday of every week.

Today at the clinic, we learned of another way that we are both having to adjust. Keith's blood counts are lower than we have ever seen. The platelet count is fine. It is at 93. Praise God! Keith's white blood cell count (WBC) is extremely low. There are several different lab results that the docs look at the make up the WBC. One of the levels basically measures how many infection fighting blood cells Keith has. This morning's labs showed he has almost none. Yes, you read that right. His level is 0.6. The normal level ranges from 1.78-5.38. Keith's WBC count as a whole is only 1.5. The normal range is 4.23-9.07. His red blood cell count is also low. As a result of the levels being so low, Keith had to get two shots today. One shot will boost his white blood cell production. The second shot will boost his red blood cell production.

These low blood counts almost suspended Keith's treatment today. The doctor decided to go ahead and give Keith the chemo. I'm hoping that by the time the chemo starts attacking Keith's good blood cells, the shots will have kicked in and Keith will be okay. The hard chemo for next week is on hold for now. We will meet with the doctor on Monday. Things might change, but they are pretty certain that Keith will only get the antibody treatment and have the pump hooked back up next Monday.

Speaking of the pump, Keith made it to today without any mouth sore problems. Praise God! Thank you for covering Keith with prayer during this last week. On Saturday morning, he noticed that there were a couple of tender spots in his mouth that acted like they might become mouth sores. Keith decided to try taking an antacid just on the hunch that the pizza he ate the night before might have been too acidic. That seemed to do the trick. The tender spots weren't tender anymore by that evening. Keith is off of the chemo pump this week. That was already planned. I'm glad that Keith will have a break from it this week, especially since his counts are so low.

Finding out that Keith's counts are as low as they are was startling. Keith became very down when the nurse told us of the doctor's decision. I tried to encourage him. I told him that in the five years we have been doing this, we have never seen how low his counts actually get in the 7-10 day down time. We saw that today. Today's levels may be what Keith's levels have always been at, and we just didn't know it! He asked me later if I was concerned about the levels being so low. I'm not really. I'm more concerned about the effects of his counts being that low. He'll need to wear a mask for the first part of this week at least. I'll watch him to make sure he isn't getting sick. Other than that, I really am not worried. I was surprised, but once I thought it through, I was okay with it. I am okay with it.

Thank you for the prayers last week. Please continue to lift Keith up. He's feeling kind of puny today. Hopefully, he will feel better as the week goes on.

Have a blessed week!


Monday, November 10, 2008

It doesn't take much

This morning I realized that it isn't a huge leap to go from having faith that God WILL to thinking that God WON'T. I'll try to explain.

We found out some really hard news about Keith this morning. His cancer has grown significantly. He has started back on the hard chemo. The treatment protocol has changed. We will be coming into the clinic every week for chemo. Keith will also have to come home wearing a pump filled with chemo. Yes, he's back on chemo 24/7. Right now, the 24/7 stuff will be every other week. It may change. Every Monday for three weeks, Keith will be getting the hard chemo. The fourth week will be an off week for the hard stuff. Hopefully, that will coincide with the off week for the 24/7 chemo. That would give Keith a complete week totally off of chemo.

Okay, with that out of the way, here it goes. I realized that it wouldn't take very much for me to lose faith in God and His power over this situation. It would be very easy for me to become angry, bitter, and turn away from God. I realized that there was a point that I had to make a decision about how I CHOSE to react to today's news. I realized that it would be VERY EASY to let the hurt and the anger consume me.

I chose not to let it. I chose to turn it and all of its ugliness over to God. Instead of becoming angry, I tried to find something to thank God for. Now, granted my heart is still full of hurt, sadness, and pain, but I KNOW that God has not changed. He is STILL right here with us. The same way He was right there with us when we were sitting in the exam room this morning, listening as our world crumbled just a little more. It is frightening to come to the realization of how easy it would be to just turn away. However, I think that knowing is better than not knowing.

I don't know what is going to happen now. I do know that Keith is very sick, and he has been for a long time. I worry the same worry I've had for the last three years...that this will be our last Christmas with Keith. I worry how I am going to be able to take care of it all without Keith. I also know that I can't let those worries consume me either. I'm a confessed worrywart, and I always have been. I have to fight against worrying ALL THE TIME.

Please keep praying for us. We are in a tough place right now. It certainly doesn't look like it is going to let up any time soon.

Have a blessed day today!


Friday, November 7, 2008

Today is a better day

Today is a better day. I'm still sad, but I'm not crying right now anyway. I'm more rested after a full night's sleep and not getting up at 0:chicken:30.

Yesterday with Nick was tough, especially when we didn't get the scan results until about 2:30/3:00. That made for a long day. The delay was nothing major on our part, but my imagination took hold. My imagination went from the doctor being delayed with another patient (which is what happened), to the doctor waiting for a surgeon to come talk to us about the results and what surgical options we needed to look at (has happened before). It turned out okay.

I wish the results were better, but I can see God's hands at work here. Nick isn't cancer free, but he is stable. Nick is still healed from the masses in his digestive tract. Nick's immune system issues aren't resolved, but we are able to give him some medicine to help. All of these are miracles within themselves, and I am thankful.

We saw Nick's GI doctor yesterday while Nick was trying to choke down the "motor oil" tasting stuff for his scans. He wants us to schedule Nick for another scope procedure...soon. I don't know when we'll be doing it. I know this is something Nick will have to do FOREVER, but I still have trouble with it. I hate for Nick to go through something else. We have watched him go through things that would make adults cringe. It's hard.

That's about it for right now. Keith has a doctor's appointment to check his blood sugar issues this morning. 5 years of almost nonstop chemo has made him a diabetic. The doctor changed him over to insulin shots about 6 weeks ago. We find out today how well the shots are working. There's a little blood test they do that tells the doctor what your blood sugar has been running over the last three months. Can't cheat on that one!

Thank you again for the thoughts and prayers.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some days are harder than others

Today is one of those days. I am sad. I am feeling the weight of what I bear. Tomorrow is such a HUGE day! Tonight all I can do is cry. I should be in bed trying to sleep, especially since I have to be up in 7 hours. I can't. I'm exhausted, but I just can't.

I'm sorry if I'm not making a lot of sense. I think it just speaks to my state of mind right now.

A friend told me he wasn't surprised by the dishwasher miracle. It seems God does that a lot in my life. I've not been able to see it from that perspective, but he's right. I think how can I be so sad when God makes His presence known in such tangible ways? I don't know how, but I do know that I am sad.

I am sad that I feel like my husband and son are NEVER going to be free from the bonds of cancer. I don't let myself dwell on the "gory details" of my family's daily life. I don't spend near as much time crying over it as I did say two years ago. There are days though, when it gets heavy and oppressive. Today is one of those days.

Sometimes I can't even believe that I have walked as far as I have in my own shoes. I know it's really been God who has carried me, but today I feel every single step of the last 5 years. It's scary going into a day like tomorrow already feeling defeated. Do I expect bad news tomorrow? No, not really. We've been there done that so many times, it won't surprise me either way. What will be, will be! I can't change it. I can't control it. God already knows what we will be finding out tomorrow. I hope and pray that everything turns out well, more Nick's sake than mine. I hate watching him go through so much. It's terrible.

I hate watching Keith fight so hard when the battle seems endless. I hate feeling helpless. I guess I'm just full of it tonight.

I know that I'll be fine eventually. I just needed to vent some tonight, and that's why I created this site. So that I would have a place to vent.

I'm crying so hard now I'm having trouble typing. Thank goodness for spell check.

I'll update again soon.