Saturday, February 26, 2011


I finally got outside today and did some pruning of the trees and bushes. It was an absolutely beautiful day today. I knew that I needed to be outside today, because I had a tough day with the depression and post traumatic stress yesterday. MLC really wanted me to make sure that I got out of the house today and into the sunshine.

After I pruned my crepe myrtles (If they die, no big deal. They were planted too close to the house anyway.), I went to look at the last tree Keith planted for me before he died. He planted me two weeping willows. The first one he planted is in the back yard and is beautiful.

The second willow Keith planted in the front yard. It has not done so well. The heat just about killed that willow during the summer Keith died. The kids and I watered, watered, and watered that little tree. It looked dead. I pruned the dead branches and we watered some more. It came back some.

The kids and I watered the tree some more this past summer. The tree had grown a little bit, but there was still a lot of dead branches on it. I cut off what I knew was dead, and decided to just leave the tree be until some other time. I hated cutting off all the dead branches. It just about broke my heart. I really was sure that little tree was dying and I couldn't do anything about it. As strange as this comparison may sound, that little tree dying felt very similar to the acceptance of Keith death.

Keith was dying and there wasn't anything I could do about it. Nothing. Not one thing.

Today was the arrival of the "some other time". I took my loppers and went to see if the tree was still living. As I was looking at the branches, I began to notice little, tiny green leaves just beginning to bud. In amongst the living branches, the dead ones were waiting. I really did not want to cut off anything off that tree. Then I remembered (or maybe it was God whispering in my ear) something that I learned about plants a long time ago. The dead parts of the plant have to be taken off so that the new growth can get enough nutrients.

By cutting off the dead branches or pruning the crepe myrtles, new growth is encouraged and the plant gets stronger.

God is pruning His children daily. I realized that is one of the benefits that will come out of the trials of Keith's death and Nick's latest battle with cancer. God is using all of these trials to prune the dead branches off of me and probably other people who are walking through this with us.

God has been pruning me all my life. The pruning hurts sometimes. I have always grown though. My spiritual journey took a huge turn when Nick got sick the first time. I learned what faith meant. I learned what hanging onto faith meant. I learned so much about myself and my belief in God during that time.

I learned even more about myself and my God during Keith's illness and his death. I am still learning more and more as I walk this widow's walk. I am learning more as I am working to bring myself and the kids through Nick's latest battle with cancer.

I realized, while I was pruning and cutting today, that I would not be where I am in my faith without the pruning that took place during all of these past struggles. I KNOW that my faith and belief in God isn't some weak tree that is starving for water. My faith is strong. It's been made strong by all of the trials. I realized that, even though the storms of life rage around me and I feel like I'm being swept away, God isn't going anywhere. He is here...right by my side. He has been there the whole time, through every trial and storm, through every sunrise and sunset. He continues to be with me...every moment of every day.

All I have to do is reach out my hand.

So remember, when life is painful, God may be using the trial as a way of pruning your faith so that it will grow into something strong and beautiful.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Update on Nick 2/25/11

Nick and I went to Children's Hospital yesterday, Thursday 2/24, for his third dose of chemo. The day was much shorter than our "normal" clinic days. We were done in just under 6 hours. I think that may be a record for us. I count it as an unexpected blessing.

Nick has handled the chemo very well so far. He hasn't had any problems with nausea or extreme tiredness like in the past. He felt like going to school all day today. That is definitely another blessing. I know I always feel better when my kids feel good.

The oncologist and I talked about the high fever episode from last week. Since all of Nick's tests (including the blood cultures) were negative, he is fairly certain that Nick had the beginnings of a meningitis type reaction to the high dose IVIG. I had no idea that this reaction even existed. Thankfully, Nick didn't have the full blown reaction. Apparently, when it happens it is very violent.

I told the doctor that we could not keep doing these high fever ER trips every time Nick gets the high dose IVIG. He agreed and is working on developing a new plan. It will likely be a decreased dose of IVIG that will be slowly built back up over time. There is also the thought of adding some additional steroids with the IVIG to help keep the reaction down.

We don't have to be concerned as much when Nick receives the IVIG with his chemo. He already takes high dose steroids for 5 days after the infusion as a part of his chemo. That should be enough to control the reaction then.

I also talked to the doctor about the small mass against the back wall of the upper small intestine. He said it is not new. It has been there. He hasn't mentioned it, because his concern has been focused on getting the larger masses taken care of first. Since the two big places are shrinking, he is going to be watching the two smaller places more closely.

Nick will return to Children's Hospital on March 17 for the next dose of chemo and IVIG. The plan is three weeks after that to do more CT scans to check on the masses and see if the chemo is still working.

Thank you so very much for the thoughts and prayers.

Please keep praying.

In His Grip,
Kristy Baxley

Monday, February 21, 2011

What more is there?

That is a question I wish I had the answer to. Then again...maybe not.

I find myself wondering if there will ever be more to this life that I am living.

God has made it VERY clear to me that I am right where He wants me to be right now. The last TWO Sunday night sermons have been about persevering and God's omnipresence.

Two Sunday's in a row! I get it God. I am in Your will right now. You are right by my side. The only way I can see my family through these trying times is to continue to depend on You. Difficulties do not mean that You have abandoned me, even though that is what my feelings may tell me.

There are several places in the Bible where God promises to love us forever and to be with us always.

In Psalm 136:1-36, Scripture states 36 times "His love endures forever."

36 times! His love endures forever.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Matthew 28:20b "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Forever and always... Those are some strong words. I'm pretty sure that I don't make very many promises that I am able to keep forever and always. I can try, but I KNOW that I will let someone down at some point, because I am human.

God can make those promises because He is THE CREATOR. He is not a sin-filled human living in a sin-filled world. He is the great I AM.

I come back to my initial question, "What more is there?" I know at least some of the answer. There will be more days that are difficult. There will be more days that I hope I never have to repeat. There will be days that are spent crying out to God the entire day.

Here's some more of what I know. God's presence will also be with me every minute of every day, during every good time and bad. God will love me forever. He won't ever stop. There will be a day when I am kneeling before my Lord and Savior. There will be a day when there is no more pain, no more sorrow, no more sin, no more death, no more cancer, or fevers, or surgeries, or asthma, or chemo, or IVIG, or learning disabilities, or...

That is the more that is waiting.

Thank you Lord!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Update on Nick 2/18/11

Nick and I were back in Birmingham on Thursday, February 17, for CT scans, checkup, IVIG, and chemo.

The CT scans showed that the large mass in the lower right pelvic area has gotten smaller by 2 or 3 centimeters vertically and horizontally. The spleen has also decreased in size. Nick's oncologist said this was enough of a change to say that the chemo is working. PRAISE GOD!

The only real concerns are a couple of other spots that were on Nick's CT scans. One spot is right behind his naval. The second spot is along the back wall of the very top of the small intestine. What we do know is the spot behind the naval has been there. It has also shown up on PET scans, which is a strong indicator that it is another cancer spot. The second spot has me more concerned. I don't remember the doctor mentioning this spot to me before. I was so tired yesterday that I didn't even think to ask more questions.

The doctor isn't going to make any changes to Nick's chemo right now. He wants to give it longer to work. That is fine with us. These other spots may go away or they may not. The spot behind the small intestine is unreachable and can cause problems if it gets bigger. It will be watched closely.

Nick's IGG level was within normal range this time. The doctor went ahead and gave Nick the mega dose IVIG to try to keep his level up.

There was not enough time to fit everything in yesterday. Nick ended up not getting the chemo. We will be going back on Thursday, February 24, for his chemo.

Thank you for the prayers. We definitely saw some answered yesterday.

Today has presented some more challenges. When Nick came home from school this afternoon, he was running a high fever. His only complaint was a headache. Because of the chemo and everything else, I am required to call the oncology clinic whenever this kind of fever happens.

I had to take Nick to the ER here for lots of tests. Nick tested negative for flu and strep. His blood work looked okay. Nothing major. His chest x-ray was also fine. The oncologist ordered a dose of IV antibiotics to cover Nick from anything that he might be fighting. Blood cultures were also drawn from Nick's central IV line. It is possible there is an infection there. The earliest we will know anything is tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, but it could take up to a week for the final results to come in.

If Nick's fever gets really high again or he feels worse, I have orders to go back to the ER for more IV antibiotics and blood cultures.

Please cover us in prayer. This is another challenge and we are all tired.

In His Grip,
Kristy Baxley

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CAUTION: Whining, rambling, venting ahead

Ok...I'm going to get the whining out of the way first. My blog. I can whine if I want to.

I can not stand Valentine's Day anymore. I absolutely can not stand to watch the commercials about how diamonds, candy, or flowers is going to declare how much love one person holds for another. Don't get me wrong. I loved Valentine's Day when Keith was alive and well. OH! Did you catch that one...alive AND well. Yep. I am realizing that Valentine's Day pretty much stunk while Keith was sick. He didn't want to be out in the crowds, so we didn't go out on the day. We went out either before or after, which now seems like just another day out. Yep! There's another one...DAY OUT. We didn't take many date nights. It just wasn't possible sometimes. We went out together during the day while the kids were at school. It was nice, but it wasn't the same.

I do have some of the most beautiful words written from Keith's heart to remind me of his love for me. I cherish these. I hurt because I won't ever have another one.

So...tomorrow I will try not to think about what I no longer have, but try to remember what I had and have still. I will try not to scream at some last minute nincompoop who forgot about Valentine's Day and is scrambling to buy something to prove that love exists. I will try not to scream at him/her to take these special moments more seriously because there will be a day when there are not any more moments. I will try to contain myself around copious displays of affection and try not to scream "get a room."

I will try to just get through tomorrow, because I have to.

That might have been all the whining and venting. Hmm...we'll see.

Tonight in evening worship, Pastor preached on Paul's last letter to the Colossians. I truly felt like God was trying to get my attention when the sermon turned toward perseverance.

Perseverance is mentioned many times in the New Testament:

James 1:3-4 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

James 5:11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

These are just a few of the many. The one referenced in Pastor's sermon was James 1:12. It really caught my attention for a couple of reasons.
1. I have it marked as one of my favorite verses.
2. The verse really hits home within my heart right now.

All of the above verses touch my heart. They serve as a reminder that God knows that I am under a huge amount of stress. He knows that I am trying to persevere under trial. He knows that I don't give up, because I love him and my children. The verses also serve to remind me that, while I don't understand the why's and what for's of everything that has happened and is happening in my family's life, the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

There will be a heavenly reward for persevering through the trials. We are going through the refining fires. God will see us through and he will use it all for HIS GOOD.

As I close this out, all I can think about is HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!

Don't let tomorrow be the only day you tell your loved one how much he/she means to you. Make it a daily habit, because one day there won't be anymore chances.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I have been on an emotional roller coaster the past couple of weeks. I finally had to go to the doctor (on the recommendation of MLC) to have my antidepressant adjusted. I am beginning to feel better. I am soooooo glad!

I'm certainly not on happy pills. Tuesday night and pieces of yesterday and today have been a little tough. Tuesday night I went to my grief support group I have been going to since about 1 month after Keith died. I have been going long enough to know that the possibility exists for me to encounter something or someone that can trigger some kind of emotional pitfall/response. Tuesay night was one of those nights. Hearing a recent widow pour out her heart about the loss of her husband just broke my heart. I had hoped that the medication changes would keep that slippery slope from appearing.

The bad of it is that the medication doesn't (or hasn't yet) keep the slippery slope from appearing and it doesn't stop me from sliding down it. The good of it is the slope didn't end in a crash and the slide down wasn't very long.

I didn't come apart emotionally, but I was very sad. I didn't go into another episode of depression, but I was down.

After talking with MLC* and MLD*, I now know the new medication won't stop me from reacting to the stress I am under and the grief I bear. It will help me keep a better rein on my emotions. I have to say that I was disappointed about my reaction to grief group the other night. I had been feeling so much better. I thought that meant the end of feeling this consuming sadness and grief that has been my ever present companion.

*MLC-My Lovely Counselor
*MLD-My Lovely Doctor

Well...I was right and wrong. It is true that I have been feeling better. Hopefully, I will continue to feel even better as the medication reaches therapeutic levels. I was wrong in assuming that the medication would take away the sadness and grief. As I stated earlier, these are not happy pills. I am going to feel sad and grief. It comes with the territory.

I guess part of my concern was that feeling better wouldn't last. After talking with my "lovelies", I know that the feeling better will continue, but so will the dips down. Yeah and bummer.

That is what life is though. It's about the up's and down's. It's about how we handle them. It's about perseverance.

That's about all the rambling I needed to get out.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The truth and nothing but the truth

I don't know what to say about life right now, except that it really, really stinks. That is the plain old truth. There are so many times during each day when I have to convince myself that this really is my life. This really is the life of my children. This is the life that we have been given.

I don't know what to think about life anymore. I can only go by what I know. What I know right now is that God is still omniscient and omnipresent. He is still the Soon Coming King. He is the same as He was yesterday. He is the same that He was today. He is the same that He will be tomorrow.

How does that apply to what is happening in my life right now?! Right this minute?! It applies when I receive emails from brothers and sisters in Christ who are lifting us all up in prayer. Knowing that even though I am physically very alone, the prayers let me know that I am not spiritually alone.

The Bible says that as children of God, we are never alone. God is with us throughout each and every storm of life. He is with us in the calm times. He is with us constantly.

If I chose not to believe that...If I chose not to believe that there are not people truly lifting us up and standing in the gap for us spiritually...If I chose to let go of any belief in God, His Son, His goodness, grace and mercy...

I would truly be alone.

I don't have my spouse standing beside me anymore. I have to face the sometimes very long, lonely nights. I have to face parenting without a balance. I have to face my son's battle with cancer without someone who loves that child exactly the same way I do.

If I chose not to have faith in God, to have a deep rooted belief in God, I would not have a reason to continue to get up every day. I would not have a reason to believe that there is a better life coming soon and very soon. I would not KNOW that I will see my husband again one day.

So, I choose to believe. I choose to have faith, even when it would seem easier to just let go of it. I choose to let Christ be MY Lord and Savior. I choose to stand for what I believe, without apology. I choose to get out of bed each and every day, to continue living this life that stinks right now, to continue trying to learn how to live without my husband, to continue to raise up these children to be God fearing and God loving adults.

I choose Jesus. I choose God. I choose eternal life. I choose.

That's the truth and nothing but the least the way I see it.