Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Weekend in the Hospital

This one is just a quick update on what has happened to us this weekend.

Scott reported to the clinic on Friday to have some blood work done and to hopefully find out if he was having a Crohn's flare up.  He had been having some intense abdominal pain, which is usually an indicator of a flare up.  

The clinic felt like it was chemo related, so he was sent to over to his oncologist's office.  After seeing him, they admitted him to the hospital.  His blood work indicated that his white cell count was extremely low at 1.  They also tested him to determine if he was actually producing any white cells.  Apparently the number they like to see is 1.5... but Scott's was 0.1.  So, needless to say, they kept him and sent him to the bone marrow transplant floor (where it's pretty sterile and bacteria free).  If you've ever seen my kids, you can pretty much guess that they we NOT about to let those, dirty ragamuffins on the floor to see their Dad!

This all took place on Friday.  They also did a scan to examine his abdomen to determine why he was having pain there.  The scan showed NO inflammation in his bowels, but it did show that he had TWO blood clots in his lungs.  

We got these results on Saturday morning.  They had moved him from the bone marrow transplant side of the floor to the oncology side.  He still had to be very careful, but this allowed the kids to see him.  They then started him on Heparin to dissolve the clots (all this can be caused by the chemo).  Anyway, after the first dose of Heparin it was discovered that his clotting time was too high (his blood couldn't clot soon enough), which is dangerous.  So, they decreased his dose of Heparin, and attempted to get that under control.

Scott has also been getting an injection of a specific drug that will stimulate his bone marrow to produce white cells.  This has caused some severe bone pain, for which he has been receiving Morphine.  He's also lost a bit of weight... he's now down to 126 lbs.  I tease him that he'll be able to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes before I can. 

So, we've had a pretty rough weekend.  Scott is still on schedule to receive his next dose of chemo this Wednesday.  I am concerned that he will lose more weight this next round, and that his white cells will again tank.  

If you are praying for us, please pray for these items:

1) Scott will be healed!
2) This next round will not be as devastating as the first.
3) That Scott will not lose weight but he will gain instead.
4) The white cell count will remain normal and there will be no infection
5) His Chron's will remain under control
6) There will be no more blood clots
7) That we will trust and see the Lord provide for all our needs.

In respect to the last request... Scott will be spending a few days at home this week, so once again, we will be seeing medical bills escalate while Scott is unable to go to work.  We are trusting that our Lord will provide all that we need.  At times, that comes easily, and other times it is quite difficult.

So, that's been the weekend for us.  Hopefully Scott can come home tomorrow (Monday).  We continue to pray for healing, but we know that when the Lord calls us to suffering, it is for our good and his glory.

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son... No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:5-6, 11)

We know the Lord loves us, we know that he is good, and we know that he is preparing us for his work during this time of trial.

Please continue to pray for us.  I can't tell you all how much we appreciate the prayers, meals, childcare, and gifts you have given to us.  We continue to be overwhelmed each and every time we receive these blessings.  Thank you so much!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First Round of Chemo

Well, we did indeed begin chemotherapy as the title states.  Wednesday, June 10th was the day Scott received his treatment.  It was a hard decision for us to make.  We cringe at the type of drug that this is, but yet we know that if we choose only alternative treatments, an even longer road stretches out before us.  So, we decided to combine both.  He will receive four rounds of chemo while at the same time we are continuing with the juicing and natural supplements.

The questions of "why" still arise from time to time... especially this past week as I watch Scott muster all his strength to get to work while in the throes of nausea, mouth sores, muscle weakness, etc.  At the same time, I have my moments of weariness as I care for him and the kids alone.

As Scott was receiving his treatment on Wednesday, I was reading in 1 Peter, where it talks about suffering.  It was a good reminder that during our suffering, our faith is refined... faith that is "more precious than gold".  In chapter four, it states that we suffer for a little while and then we are "done with sin" and ready to do the will of the Lord.  

When I read that I took it to mean that suffering produces a different attitude within us.  I think we still sin, but when we have come through our time of suffering, those things that seemed so paramount are now trivial.  Then I looked at what those things actually were and realized that many of them had sin issues attached to them... pride, wrong priorities, wrong attitudes, etc.  I think that our suffering changes what we deem as important in life... and if our suffering has been "fruitful" and we have allowed the Lord to work in us during that time, then we are willing to live solely for God and to do his will.

So, that is one of my prayers this week... not to waste this time of suffering!  I'm also praying that the Lord will heal Scott and give him strength daily.

I thought of an older song this evening as I was feeling weary with the weight of taking care of the kids alone without Scott's help (it's all he can manage to go to work, and he shouldn't have to try and instruct/discipline/feed/clothe/etc. the kids).  Some of it goes like this:

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me
No great success to show
No glory on my own
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know

His strength is perfect 
When our strength is gone
He'll carry us when we can't carry on
Raised in his power 
The weak become strong
His strength is perfect, his strength is perfect  

We can only know
The power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes
His strength in us begins
When ours comes to an end
He hears our humble cry and proves again

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He'll carry us when we can't carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, his strength is perfect

So, that one was for you Almeda :)!  I listened to it on youtube and it brought back good memories... through the tears!  By the way, I miss you sister!  Anyway, I'm clinging to the fact that God is good, He has a plan for us in this, and that as my strength quickly wanes, He will fill me with His strength!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Expecting a Miracle

I asked myself today if it is wrong to desperately hope for and expect a miracle tomorrow... because that's what I'm doing.  Here's why I say that.  

About a week ago we met with Scott's radiation oncologist and his primary oncologist.  We saw the radiation oncologist first.  She explained the whole process of radiation and told us that when the radiate the areas that held the cancer, they have to also expose a margin of healthy tissue as well.  They have to base their exposure on the PET scan that Scott had done a few weeks ago, and on the scan that they will take after his chemo treatments are completed.  She explained that the chemo will literally melt the tumor away about 24-48 hours after treatment.  

She then made the comment that she rarely gets to see the patient before they start chemo, so it would be great if she could give Scott one last scan before he takes the treatment.  That way she would have an exact marker of his tumors and the margin of healthy tissue that would need to be exposed would be lessened.  

Obviously this sounded great to us, so we scheduled Scott for that.  Well, that week I gave an update to our Ladies First Thursdays (Bible study and prayer time).  As we were praying, one dear sister in Christ began praying for Scott and myself.  She then seemed to cry out from the depths of her soul for Scott to be healed and that they would see that on the scan.  My heart wept with her as we poured out this request before the throne.  As I'm writing this, I can still hear her weeping and petitioning the Lord.

I talked with her a few days later and she explained that the Holy Spirit simply laid it on her heart to bring that before the Lord and to pray in that manner.  It wasn't anything she or I had thought of until that very moment that she began praying that night.

So, all that to say that that has become our fervent request.  Tomorrow we go for that appointment.  Scott will be scanned and then he will receive chemo.  If you read this anytime soon, please join us in praying for and expecting a miracle tomorrow.

Many of you might be thinking, "What if he still has cancer after the scan and still has to go through chemo?".  The best way I can answer that is with a verse that the kid's and I were reading last week.  It's found in Daniel 3:17-18.  It takes place as King Nebuchadnezzer orders Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down to the large golden image that he (the king) had constructed.

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

We believe that God can heal, and heal completely.  But even if he chooses to make us go through the fire, there are two things that we know:
1) He will be the fourth man in the fire... meaning, he will walk through it with us.
2) We will bow to him and to no other gods.

One thing I read this morning and shared it with the kids was this:

"Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil desires, but rather for the will of God." 

If the Lord chooses to have us walk down this path of suffering, may we use it as a tool to be done with sin and to live the rest of our lives not for our own evil desires, but for the will of God.  So, I'm praying with expectation that the Lord will miraculously heal Scott fully and completely and we will see that tomorrow as well as all the doctors and staff at the hospital.  May the Lord receive all the glory and praise for that!  In the meantime, if the Lord chooses a different path for us, we will accept that and look forward to the fruits that will come after this time of pruning.

Please pray with us in these next few hours and we wait hopefully and expectantly for a miracle. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

An Ending and a Beginning

Well, first let me say that I am very sorry this post is long in coming!  The past few weeks have been some of the most difficult of our lives... and blogging was the last thing on my list.

On May 14, 2009, my dear mother-in-law went home to be with her Saviour.  It was the end of a very long struggle with cancer.  However, as this was taking place, Scott was just beginning to take the first steps of his journey with cancer.

We flew to WI rather quickly when we received the word that Scott's mom only had days left on this earth.  We arrived on a Friday night and were able to spend a few precious days with her.  However, that Wednesday Scott had an appointment with his oncologist back home in Denver.  While his mother was on the brink of death, we were forced to make a decision... should he return to make his appointment and meet with his oncologist for the first time, or should he cancel his appointment and remain with his mother?  It was difficult, because we had been waiting for this appointment for over three weeks.  If Scott missed this, it may have pushed treatment back at least another month, and we weren't sure what stage his cancer was in.

Scott and his dad decided that he needed to return and go to the appointment.  So, Scott did the difficult and said good-bye to his mother before boarding a plane to return to Denver.  The kids and I stayed behind in WI, knowing it would only be days if not hours before she passed away.  It was during this time that I was privileged to be able to care for my mother-in-law in her last hours.

The day of Scott's appointment, hospice came to my in-law's home to care for Bergetta (Scott's mom).  The nurse asked her if she was ready to pass on, and Bergetta said,
"No... I'm waiting for my son to return".
Needless to say, it was more than I could bear to hear.  

Later on that day I was able to talk with Scott and received the news from his appointment, which didn't sound promising.  His oncologist staged his Hodgkins at a 2A... meaning that the cancer has spread from his lymph node and is now in his upper thoracic area (chest), above his diaphragm.  The oncologist also took a bone marrow biopsy (which we weren't expecting), to rule out any cancer in that area.  he told Scott that he would need chemotherapy for four months and radiation for two months.

After hearing all of that the only thing I could do was weep.  My father-in-law and I sat on the couch and he held me as I poured out my anguish over everything that was happening in our lives.  Scott's brother, Corey was on the phone with Scott repeating his mom's remark, and lining up an immediate flight back to WI.

Scott rushed from the clinic to the airport and made it back to Wisconsin by midnight.  As his family gathered by his mom's bedside, her last words were,
"Everyone's here."
The next day her decline was rapid and she was ushered into the arms of Jesus that evening. 

We took the next week for the viewing, funeral, and burial as well as writing out thank you cards, etc.  It was a difficult week in the fact that we had to put grief for one life event on hold, while we grieved for the other event.  I have to admit that at times, it felt so unfair to have to do that.  I just wanted to grieve for how our lives were about to completely change due to this new diagnosis... yet I had to grieve with and for my husband's loss of his mother and my kid's loss of their grandmother.  I felt like after this, almost everyone could return to their normal daily lives, except for us.  We just couldn't come back home and carry on... we were about to have a new normal.

So, this past Friday we hadn't been home yet a week, and we were at the hospital for a full day of surgery, scans, and diagnostic tests.

Scott had a CT scan of his spleen done in addition to pulmonary and cardiac function tests done to record a baseline before the chemo.  Because the chemo drugs can damage heart and lungs, it was necessary to know where he was at before taking the drugs.  After that, he went in for a port placement.  This was a surgery where they out in an IV access into his superior vena cava (his big heart vein), and placed the access site under his skin.  This way, whenever he needs his treatment, they can access that instead of sticking him every time.  This is also the preferred vein to place the chemo into, as it will not cause damage to his peripheral veins.

I spent the day there with him, struggling with my emotions and attitude.  If you know me you know that the less drama I experience in life, the better.  I have had sweet moments of being able to lay this burden at the cross and walk away.  Yet, I have also had many moments of picking it up and clinging to it tightly.  There have been many times that I'm not even sure how to communicate to, express with, or treat Scott.  One moment I know that I can't do it all, and yet the next moment I feel that I'm the one that needs to hold it all together for our family; for our kids.  One moment I'm free, and the next overwhelmed.  Some days I live moment by moment with this trial we have been called to bear.

And that brings another "why" thought.  Why does the Lord want us to walk this path?  Why now when our children are so young?  What is His purpose in all of this?  What am I supposed to learn?  

All these questions and more surface as I watched Scott tighten his belt to another notch in order to make it tighter.  He's lost muscle mass and inches as the cancer feeds off of the protein in his body.  He's in pain from the tumor that is pressing on nerves as well as the new port that has been forced under his skin.  He's not allowed to lift anything this next week... including his baby girl.

Today gave us a few more definite answers.  We met with both the radiation and chemotherapy oncologists to set up a treatment plan.  We are thankful to the Lord that his chemo will only be two months and radiation will be one month.  The chemo was changed to half of the projected time due to a new study that was just released in Germany regarding Hodgkins patients and the current treatment.  Our doctor was willing to go with those results due to the fact that Scott's age, stage of cancer, etc. places him in a more "favorable" category for treatment.  Both oncologists were very patient with all of our questions and were very willing to work around Scott's work schedule.

I felt a renewed sense of hope as I sat through the appointments.  As I was waiting for Scott to schedule his treatment dates, I read 2 Peter 5:10-11.

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power forever and ever.  Amen."

I saw that that's what I want to be... strong, firm and steadfast.  

During this last weekend of emotional struggle for me, the words of Jeremy Camp's song "Walk by Faith" have deeply pierced my heart.  It says:

Would I believe you when you would say 
Your hand will guide my every way 
Will I receive the words You say 
Every moment of every day 

Well I will walk by faith 
Even when I cannot see 
Well because this broken road 
Prepares Your will for me 

Help me to win my endless fears 
You've been so faithful for all my years 
With one breath You make me new 
Your grace covers all I do  

May I walk this broken road with perseverance and determination to come to the end as a strong, firm and steadfast believer in the one, true God who knows our every footstep before we even take one.