Healing versus Curing

 

With graduate school, comes a great deal of writing...papers, discussion board posts, and note-taking. I let the tears flow as I wrote this post in a message board the other night. I reread it...cried again and thought I should share it. There is a very important message for those who are on a pilgrimage to healing. Healing and curing are NOT the same. Once we accept this, we can embrace the actual process of healing and not let the absence of a cure be a total failure. 

Healing is a process of coming to a resolution between the mind, body and spirit. Curing is the removal of disease, or achieving physical wellness and balance. Curing involves the physical body, while healing involves the mind, body, and spirit as a whole (Ritberger, 2013).  I believe whole-ness is not achieved until we transition to the next life in heaven. It is something we strive for but is not completed until our time here is over. We are then released from our pain, suffering, and imperfections. Holmes shared some very powerful thoughts from religious professionals who are using a holistic approach with end of life in individuals, particularly hospice care. He mentions that some see, “death as the door to ultimate healing, whereas for some in the medical profession it is the ultimate, inevitable defeat” (Holmes, 2007).

I was fortunate enough to witness ultimate healing in my mother-in-law 11 months ago. My job during her journey with cancer was to be a source of information and support with her doctor visits. As a nurse, I recorded the information at appointments and typed up notes, and would explain what everything meant. I came up with medication logs once the pain medicines started, developed eating plans based on her symptoms, and did hundreds of hours of research. I never forced my own personal opinions on her. Just let her take it all in and make her own educated decisions, respecting those that she made even if they were different that what I would have done. I was her daughter-in-law in that she saw me emotionally hurt by the pain and situation she was in. I went back and forth from “nurse-mode” to “family mode”. She saw that I loved her dearly and treated her as I would have my own mother. For that I think she respected me for my loyalty and honesty. She said I was her angel, but in all actuality, she was mine.

Her and our family had hoped and prayed for her doctors to cure her cancer, but once we realized she would not be cured in the medical sense, we shifted our focus more to her healing. We consulted Alive Hospice chaplains and utilized the nursing staff to guide us through the process, making her transition as comfortable and as dignifying as possible. The nurses answered our phone calls at all hours of the day and night and they shared their personal stories. This sharing and connecting allowed us to further embrace the loss we were feeling while gaining the knowledge we needed to feel comfortable about the care we had to provide. I vividly remember talking to her, even after she was no longer responsive, holding her hands, putting essential oils and natural lubricants on her body, giving her massages, playing music that she enjoyed, and even putting her favorite football team on the TV during game time. We continued life in her presence knowing she would not be with us long. As her breathing changed, we took shifts laying on the floor at her bedside. I had a fear that I would not be there for her death. A very kind nurse shared her personal story of how her father passed from this life after everyone finally left the room. She said, “They will go when they’re ready.” Her story and words gave me peace and relieved my fear. When the time came, I was there, however. She allowed me to be there with her, holding her hand and praying over her as she took her last breath, one that can only be described as full of energy! It was as if her body said, “It is done.” When I read in Dossey & Keegan that the right relationship is the “process of connection among parts of whole that increase energy…” (Dossey & Keegan, 2016, p. 101) it made perfect sense to me. Even in her death, there was energy and that energy was a physical observance of her complete healing. Her body had sustained much longer than any of the doctors or even Hospice nurses had expected. It is my feeling that, she needed time to emerge into her something new. When her mind, body and spirit came together and were in agreement, her healing transitioned her through death. It really was a beautiful process, and I am forever blessed for being a part of it. That connection we shared has enriched my life, made me so much better for it, and is a big part of the reason I sit here typing this now. The grief since her passing has been difficult, especially for my husband, his siblings, my father-in-law, and countless others who were impacted by her life. Acknowledging all that I have above, doesn’t make grief any easier. It has however, made me less afraid of death. Understanding the difference between healing and curing is actually a weight lifted, and I’m grateful for the role nurses play in the process and acknowledging that there doesn’t have to be failure when there is not a cure. 

References

Dossey, B. M., & Keegan, L. (2016). Holistic nursing A handbook for practice (7th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Holmes, T. (2007, May 8). Curing vs. healing: religious professionals subscribe to a holistic approach to health. Retrieved from Oakpark.com: http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/5-8-2007/Curing-vs.-healing/

Ritberger, C. (2013). Healing vs curing: they're not the same. Retrieved from Wisdom Magazine: http://wisdom-magazine.com/Article.aspx/1026/

The Other Side of Fear

 

Today would have been Mrs. Barbara’s 65th Birthday. She loved birthday celebrations. No matter whose birthday it was, she was always giddy as a kid for the birthday person to open the gift from her. Today, my birthday gift in honor of her is truly bittersweet. 270 days ago, just 8 hours after her death, I wrote this:

I feel an immense void. Oh how I rejoice at her transition from this life to the glorious next, but her journey has been a big part of mine the last year as well. What do I do now? I really don’t know yet, but what I learned from her pilgrimage to healing…to her ultimate healing…is that God is all over this. He’s had His arms around me too, and just as He led her down each road and path, He will also lead me…and I am willing to follow.

The last several months, there have been many tears, prayers, joys, and setbacks as I have tried to follow God’s will for my life. I know that I get in the way, but more recently I have felt a consistent nudge. A nudge can feel uncomfortable. It can take you out of your comfort zone and make you fear yourself and your abilities. “Am I good enough?” “Can I really do THAT?”

What do you think of when you first hear the word fear? I think of scared, trembling, dark, isolated, unknown.

When do you feel fear? Maybe in an unsafe, unfamiliar place or going into a meeting that was unexpectedly called or when worrying about your kids when they’re out of your control?

What is the purpose of fear? Protection, to hold you back…or a tool for growth, to motivate or move forward.

Have you ever thought of what is on the other side of fear? We’ve been scared before. What happens when we’re no longer in fear? It’s usually a different emotion – relief, contentment, joy, anger, or acceptance. It’s also where dreams can become reality. It’s where we put our trust in something bigger than ourselves, and take a step forward.

Fear is an emotion in a moment. What’s on the other side of it can be a journey…the path to where we’re supposed to be, what we’ve needed, what we’ve longed for.

Despite my fears, I am ready to follow this path on the other side of them. So…where am I headed?

For those who don’t know, I am a Registered Nurse. I worked in the Neonatal ICU before I had my own babies, and have been at home with them the last 7 years. Last Fall Mrs. Barbara and her journey motivated me to consider my career from a different perspective. I didn’t want to go back into the hospital but wanted to work with adults and families to help them navigate all the confusing health information and assist them on their own pilgrimages to healing. Shortly after Mrs. Barbara’s heavenly birth day, I became a Certified Health Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

As I began providing health coaching to some clients this spring, I felt something was missing. And this summer…I felt the nudge. And I know it was from Him. I know because I questioned it again. “Are you sure?...ME?” I could list so many reasons it wouldn’t be the right time or that I’m not the right person. I even hesitated to bring it up to Chris. I asked God to please give me direction…that I didn’t want to go off on something that was actually MY will and not His. The very next morning, I brought it up to Chris. I expected him to shoot me down because of the money, time-commitment, and all the other reasons, but he didn’t. He was excited! Elated! I believe God speaks through our spouses, and He spoke through mine that morning. That day, I began the application process and last week was accepted to a Master’s level program to become a Holistic Nurse Practitioner, an advanced practice nurse specializing in a holistic approach to health and wellness. Holism is natural in nursing. We look at more than just the condition, but the whole person.

Chris and I have decided to form a business for my nursing practice and health coaching. We’ve decided to name it: Pilgrimage to Healing. We are so excited to share this with you all! All of you who have prayed for us, supported us, and guided us in some form or fashion. Starting a business is intimidating and scary, but exciting and purposeful. It is a way to honor Mrs. Barbara (especially today), to keep her memory and story alive, while being able to reach our friends, family, community, and the world with trustworthy information and supportive care.

 Our new business logo!

Our new business logo!

Many things we go through in life require healing, and healing takes time. Pilgrimage to Healing will focus on educating and empowering people to take charge of their health and provide them the tools necessary to make changes in their lifestyle with support and accountability while respecting the time it takes to get there.

How will Pilgrimage to Healing help others? Well, I’ll have some more exciting announcements and offerings early this Fall, but I have a website with a newsletter and access to the services I will offer. I will continue blog posts and there will even be a Facebook group where we can connect more personally about the issues you’re facing and realize you’re not alone. I will face some of my personal fears, and speak to groups of people, take videos of myself, and dare to believe that people want to hear what I have to say. I won’t let my fears dictate my life. I will use them to move me forward because this is so much bigger than me. People are hurting, and I have something to offer them. God didn’t put these life experiences and passions in my heart to have me hold back now. I plan to share a wealth of knowledge, tips, support, and inspiration. We’re not meant to journey alone. Mrs. Barbara journey was and still is my inspiration. She brought me along on her pilgrimage to healing, and I would be honored to walk alongside you on yours.

I would love for you to visit our new website at www.pilgrimagetohealing.com. Please let me know what you think, and if you're struggling with your health, I would love to be a part of helping you get back on track!

What’s waiting on the other side of your fear?

Heavenly Father, the void is still there, and it hurts. I miss my Mother-in-Love. I couldn’t have anticipated all the ways I would be reminded of her, but I am grateful for the life she shared with me. Lord, I pray for all those still grieving her loss here on earth. Thank you for the other side of fear, Lord. I’m grateful for the blessing I have found there. Lord, I pray for Pilgrimage to Healing. I pray that it reaches those who are in need of support on their journeys and that You bless them, nurture their roots, and make their lives fruitful. I pray all those impacted see You as the light in their darkness. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

Thankful

May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Today is one month since my Mother-in-Love made her transition into Heaven. It seems like it was yesterday. Her Celebration of Life was so beautiful! I think it was everything she would have wanted. A time filled with memories of her life, funny and true. She was quite a remarkable lady. Thank you all for sharing your stories and memories with her with us.

I think of her all the time and I miss her dearly. Doing life here feels weird without her, but I know where she is and that brings me comfort. I imagine her up there still meeting dear friends and family that have passed before her and checking out her real home. I imagine her body, healed and restored, and no need to be concerned with any of the heartaches or dramas or pain we experience here. I imagine her making plans to serve her friends, doing some cooking, attending some sporting event and cheering loudly, or most likely being outside tending to something more beautiful than I can imagine. I am reminded of her in ways I didn't expect. Certain songs, seeing the comments she left on my Facebook memories or the pages she liked, and seeing big red trucks to name a few. In honor of her, on this Thanksgiving, which we were supposed to spend with her, I wanted to list 1 thing I am thankful for for each year of her precious life...64 things.

  1. Our Heavenly Father - I could make a whole other list on why I am specifically thankful for Him. The way He orchestrates life leaves me in constant amazement.
  2. Jesus - His sacrifice for me.
  3. Prayer - The prayers by all of you were and are felt. They sustained us when we needed it most, and I will forever be thankful for the power of prayers.
  4. Chris - he embodies all that God created a human husband to be.
  5. Christian - his confidence and passion invigorate me.
  6. Kaden - his tender strength and bravery inspire me.
  7. Kaylyn - her caring nature and fun-loving personality make my soul happy.
  8. My parents - the best, supportive, selfless role models a girl could have.
  9. My sister - her servant heart and giving spirit lift me up daily.
  10. My grandmothers - the wise women of my life.
  11. My friends - my wise counsel on a variety of topics.
  12. That we had 1 year to spend with Mrs. Barbara after her diagnosis. We don't always have that much time.
  13. That Mrs. Barbara allowed me to serve her. My soul has been blessed and enriched by the love she shared with me during her journey with cancer.
  14. My Bible - the answers are always in there.
  15. Bottled water - without it, I would be severely dehydrated.
  16. Minivans - they really are the best way to travel with young kids.
  17. Power sliding van doors.
  18. Crockpot - has helped me feed my family MANY nights. A tool Mrs. Barbara always encouraged me to use more.
  19. Keyless entry
  20. Dawn dish soap - It has many uses, but the best has been to get the vaseline out of my daughter's hair...twice.
  21. Aluminum foil - has saved me countless hours of washing cookie sheets
  22. Coconut oil - eat it, cook with it, lip gloss, skin care, wounds, etc etc. I use it for everything!
  23. Electric lawn mower - one of my favorite gifts from Mrs. Barbara!
  24. My church - a wonderful place that extends outside of the walls of a building
  25. My church family - filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit
  26. Offer Group - our church small group that is like our second family
  27. Step Stools - not all short people are climbers
  28. Clouds
  29. Airplanes - It really fascinates me how they can get off the ground!
  30. Sunrises and Sunsets - They are like my "good morning" and "good night" from God.
  31. Rolling computer bags
  32. Luggage on wheels
  33. Football - instrumental in teaching my boys about math and many other life lessons.
  34. The hard times I've experienced - they make the good times even sweeter and I've ALWAYS taken something wonderful from it.
  35. Music - it uplifts me, helps me exercise, makes me act a fool in front of my kids (which I think they need to see)
  36. Alone time - it helps me miss those that I sometimes don't have a chance to miss.
  37. Essential oils - I truly believe they work...and if they don't, at least they smell really good.
  38. Being a mother - THE most challenging career I've ever had with the biggest opportunity to change the world.
  39. Writing - like the kind with a pencil.
  40. Whole 30 - whole food healing nutrition...the way God intended.
  41. Dishwasher - me, the sink, and floaties don't get along
  42. The ability to stay home with my kids - though challenging and not at all what I expected, I would not trade the time with them for anything.
  43. Beaches
  44. Christmas ornaments - they make my heart happy
  45. Santa - I still believe in the magic of Christmas
  46. Crafts - a creative outlet
  47. Brownie batter - a lifelong comfort indulgence
  48. Fresh herbs - they taste so much better
  49. Teachers - I love how they love my kids
  50. Our armed forces - that there are people out there willing to lose their life for our country's freedom
  51. Police officers - that there are people willing to protect me and my family in our community every day
  52. Firefighters - that there are people willing to go into places everyone else is running out of
  53. Garbage man - that there are people out there willing to do jobs that most of us think are gross.
  54. Fireplaces - the color, the warmth, the crackle.
  55. Mugs filled with hot chocolate, tea, or coffee.
  56. Rainbows - the Lord's creativity is majestic!
  57. Fleece - blankets, lined tights, jackets...so soft and warm.
  58. Inflatables - instant yard decoration and Mrs. Barbara loved them.
  59. Cajun food - there's nothing else like it.
  60. Socks - my feet are always cold.
  61. Belly laughs - they hurt so good.
  62. Photographs - they keep the memories alive.
  63. Memories - they keep the ones I miss alive.
  64. My life - it's a beautiful mess.

No matter the circumstances, I hope everyone has a very blessed and thankful Thanksgiving.

Heavenly Father, thank You for all the wonderful blessings in my life, mentioned above, and many more. Thank you for Your continued presence. I pray for those who are hurting tomorrow, those who are missing someone no longer sitting at the table. May Your comfort surround them. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen.

Celebration of Life Arrangements

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4

I have posted Mrs. Barbara's obituary below. We are compiling pictures and memories for events during the service. If you have pictures to share, please post them to Mrs.Barbara's Facebook page or email them to Tricia Klein at tdsklein@gmail.com. Feel free to leave memories or stories you have of Mrs. Barbara on her Facebook page or you can comment on this blog post.

***********************************************************************************************

Barbara Martinez Rush, a native of Baton Rouge, LA, and resident of Mount Juliet, TN, was called Home on Sunday, October 25, 2015, at the age of 64 after battling ovarian cancer for just over one year.  She was birthed into Heaven peacefully at her home with her family at her side.  Barbara was a graduate of Baker High School. She worked for the Baton Rouge Police department in uniform patrol, and then for the Baton Rouge Constables Office before she retired and then owned and operated Central Sports before moving to Tennessee. Recently, she enjoyed her part-time work as a Security Officer at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN.  Barbara was a loving wife, devoted mother of four children, and “Memere” to 17 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. All who knew her admired the “fighter” in her spirit. She inspired many people to stay strong through life’s trials and obstacles. That inspiration and strength is a legacy she leaves behind.

She is survived by her mother, Emma Dean Martinez; husband of 22 years, Charles E. Rush, Jr.; two brothers Henry J. Martinez, Joseph E. Martinez, Jr. (Hong); daughter, Jacqueline Jones (Mike); three sons, Chad Klein (Tricia), Christopher Schiro (Jennifer), Nicholas Schiro (Brittney); stepdaughters, Donna Rush Soniat, Dara Rush Bartee (Michael), Kelly Rush McGothren (Wes), Angelle Rush Butcher; grandchildren, Madeline Jones, Crawford Jones, Jessica Klein, Ella Klein, Christian Schiro, Kaden Schiro, Kaylyn Schiro, Easton Schiro, Cassandra Soniat Boyd, Heath Soniat, Brad Bartee, Brian Bartee, Chas Kelley, Weston McGlothren, Connor McGlothren, Gabriel Butcher, and Jayden Butcher; 1 great-grandchild, Clayton Monte; and a host of nieces and nephews.

She is preceded in death by her father, Joseph E. Martinez, Sr. and sister, Margaret Martinez Lombardo.

A Celebration of Life Memorial Service will be held on Sunday, November 1, 2015, at Resthaven Gardens of Memory & Funeral Home, 11817 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge, LA 70816.  Service will be held from 1:00-2:00 PM and visitation will follow from 2:00-5:00 PM.

Barbara benefitted greatly from the help of some wonderful organizations during her battle with cancer. Therefore, in lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory to the American Cancer Society (http:/www.cancer.org/) or Alive Hospice (http://www.alivehospice.com/).  Also, those interested may leave a personal note to the family here on the blog.

Heavenly Father, the days seem to go by quicker, almost lightning fast. The world continues to whir around me as life goes on. Lord, all the emotions you have gifted us with are not comfortable. Please stay by me and Mrs. Barbara's family and friends as we process the grief. Help us to acknowledge our emotions in the moment and not rush through them. Help us transition our lives back to a "new normal" without Mrs. Barbara in our presence. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen.

A Peaceful Passing

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  -Proverbs 3:5-6

It is with a heavy, lonely, empty, yet peaceful heart that I inform you that my beautiful and precious Mother-in-Love has passed away. She took her last breath at 4:05 a.m., surrounded by her husband, Charles, son Chris, and myself. I was honored to hold her hand and tell her that I love her and I'll miss her as she left this life for the one she now has in Heaven.

I have been at peace with the understanding that her time here would be shorter than we'd like. I did not want to see her in pain anymore and understood that the cancer had ravaged her body to the point where she just could not survive here any longer. Either God would work a miracle or call her home to complete healing...and that's what He did. But I will say, I'm feeling that Mrs. Barbara (along with our Lord) had the final say on when she left...NOT the cancer. Her body continued to sustain far longer than the Hospice nurses and doctors expected, and she fought to the last breath. She survived just over 1 year from her surgery when doctors gave her months. She stayed at home with us for 12 days, when they only gave her 3-7. She exceeded all expectations. Her passing was peaceful, and though it has been difficult for us to watch her body struggle and change, it has also been a comfort to know her soul was strengthening for it's birth into Heaven.

Today is also her sister, Margaret's, earthly birthday. Margaret passed away many years ago from cancer as well. Today, Mrs. Barbara was birthed into Heaven and they share a birthday. I would bet Aunt Margaret was right there welcoming her home.

One of Mrs. Barbara's final requests was for those that knew and loved her to celebrate her life. She said, "I want people saying funny and realistic things about my life. I don't want a bunch of people crying over my body." For those reasons, her body will be cremated and her beautiful urn brought down to Baton Rouge for a Celebration of Life Memorial service. We, especially myself, have been extremely blessed to read and hear stories that you all have shared about your lives with Mrs. Barbara. What a blessing to see and feel the impact she had on our world! Please continue to share those!

We will share and post more details in the days to come. In addition, she was not the biggest fan of flowers, so if you are considering a gift for her memorial or family, please consider making a tax-deductible donation in her memory to one of the following organizations that were a tremendous support to Mrs. Barbara during her battle with cancer: American Cancer Society or Alive Hospice in Nashville. I will post additional details later on how to make these donations as well.

As I write this post, sitting in the spot where she lay the last 12 days and where she took her last breath just 8 hours ago, I feel an immense void. Oh how I rejoice at her transition from this life to the glorious next, but her journey has been a big part of mine the last year as well. What do I do now? I really don't know yet, but what I learned from her pilgrimage to healing...to her ultimate healing...is that God is all over this. He's had His arms around me too, and just as He led her down each road and path, He will also lead me...and I am willing to follow.

Heavenly Father, my heart hurts today. The void feels deep, and I ache for the loss of my husband's dear mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a cousin, a friend. For all those who are saddened by Mrs. Barbara's passing. At the same time we rejoice in her transition to your loving arms in Heaven. Lord, I pray the coming days will be filled with more wonderful stories as we remember Mrs. Barbara, and as lives will eventually go back to normal and the pain continues for some, I pray you will keep your comforting arms wrapped around us as we process the grief. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen!

Patiently Waiting

Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, for the Lord is a just God. All who wait patiently for Him are happy. - Isaiah 30:8

I know many of you are anxiously awaiting updates on Mrs. Barbara. I hope the verse above can bring you the same comfort it has brought me. Without getting into each small detail, I will share with you that Mrs. Barbara has been transitioning through the phases of her death with such strength and patience and peace. We have done our best to give her the dignity that she deserves. Her body is extremely weak now. She is unable to talk, and she does not move very much. Her breathing has begun to change, so her passing could be anytime between now and a couple days, according to the Hospice nurses. We continue to hope for and pray for a miracle, but are at peace if God calls her home.

I know death and dying can be extremely difficult for some, even the person dying. There are fears of pain, loss of dignity, the changing body, remembering the loved one in a different way than they were before. I encourage everyone who reads this to challenge yourself to view death differently. Like I mentioned in the last post, there is beauty to be found in dying, and I am forever blessed to have been able to find it throughout Mrs. Barbara's journey and even as she dies. That does not mean that it is not difficult, heart-wrenching, or exhausting, but my hope is that by starting to view death differently, we can ease the transition for our loved ones and selves when our times are near. The Hospice Chaplain visited us this weekend and was such a blessing. She brought us comfort in the process. She explained that as Mrs. Barbara's body is getting weaker, her soul is getting stronger and preparing for her transition to Heaven. Just as birth is the transition of the baby for life outside the womb, death is a transition to life eternal.

Mrs. Barbara can still hear. If there is something you would like for her to hear by me reading it to her, you may private message me on Facebook or send me an email. Please continue to pray for continued peace and comfort for Mrs. Barbara and strength for our family today and the days to come. Your visits, messages of support, and prayers have been a wonderful blessing that has sustained us. Thank you!

Heavenly Father, I reach out to You during this emotional time. I thank You for being with us. We definitely sense your Presence. Thank You for the wonderful Hospice nurses, chaplains, social worker, and health aide. You have definitely gifted them with compassion and mercy. Lord, I continue to pray for a miracle for Mrs. Barbara. But I also trust in Your Will, and if it means complete healing is with You, in Heaven, I am grateful for the time I had with Mrs. Barbara here. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen!

God's Will Be Done

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV)

It is with a saddened heart that I share with you that Mrs.Barbara's health has significantly declined. As of today, she is home resting and under the care of her family and Hospice. She was discharged home from the hospital yesterday. The doctors, though not able to know the exact time the Lord will call her home, have mentioned that her time with us may be less than one week.

On Sunday and Monday we had discussions with the oncology team regarding the CT scan from Friday night. Her tumors had grown 2cm each. That, in combination with her level of pain and discomfort led them to believe that her symptoms were a result of disease progression and not a "tumor flare" as was hoped. She was too weak to consider other forms of treatment or to continue on her clinical trial, so there was nothing else the doctors could do for her. After speaking with the hospice representative, we elected to bring her home and have visits by hospice nurses to help with her comfort and care.

She has a PCA pump since she has a chemoport, which makes it easier and faster to give her the pain relief she needs. She has experienced quite a bit of pain, and that has been very hard to watch. Her regimen at home seems to have helped her pain, and her nausea has basically gone away. She sleeps and rests most of the day. She gets up to use the bathroom but does have a catheter to relieve some pressure on her bladder. We have her in her own nightgown with her own blankets, in her bedroom, surrounded by her pictures of family and grandchildren, memoirs, and cards. Though very sedated, she will still talk with us when we are with her. We have had some very special and wonderful moments with her when she is more alert. We take advantage of these times, letting her know how loved she is, how proud we are of her, praying for her, even singing (though we've apologized for none of us being gifted with singing abilities).

This is very tough, to be completely honest. I am sure there are many reading this who have intimately experienced the loss of someone very close by being along side them as their body, mind, and spirit transition from this life to the next. For me, this is a first, and as hard as it is, it has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. To love and to have been loved by someone enough for them to bring you along on their journey is a wonderful gift. For the caregiver, dying is not pretty or appealing to the senses or the emotions. As I have accepted the reality of what is happening to Mrs. Barbara, I have had a single phrase that keeps coming to me. "God created death." Just like he created us in life, he created our death, or this transition into life eternal with Him. It was designed by Him, so there must be beauty in it somewhere. I have been seeking that beauty in Mrs. Barbara's transition. I have embraced every emotion and tried to allow each one whatever time it has needed in the moment. In that, I have found that "peace beyond all understanding" and know that He is with me, and I know He is right here with her.

I, along with her family, are heartbroken right now, at times to the point of physical pain and anxiety. I have no idea what the coming days will look or feel like, but I believe in the healing power of Jesus Christ and that God's Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Please continue to lift Mrs. Barbara in prayer...for mercy from the pain, a miracle that only God can provide at this point if that is His Will, and that if He is calling her home, that the transition be a comfortable and peaceful one. Also, lift up Coach, her children, and family in prayer as they prepare their own bodies and minds to assist her during this time. Pray for the beauty in the process and the acceptance of God's Will.

Heavenly Father, my heart aches for my sweet Mother-in-Love!! Lord, I pray for her pain relief and comfort. I pray for her to know our love. I pray for continued strength and peace as we travel this portion of the pilgrimage with her. Your Will be done as we patiently wait for her ultimate healing. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen.

Admitted to the Hospital

"Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.” - Psalm 37:7

Well, we've had another curve ball thrown. Mrs. Barbara is currently admitted to the hospital as of early this morning. We brought her to the ER last night because she had a lot of nausea and hadn't kept any fluids down all day. Coach had been trying to get her to do the bowel cleanse and liquid diet but anything going in just made her sick. 

Thankfully, the ER was not busy and they got her back quickly. They started IV fluids and she felt better very quickly. They did a CT scan of her abdomen, took a urine sample and some blood. They also gave her her pain and nausea medicines through her port. Within an hour her pain was the lowest she has reported in 2 weeks and she had an appetite! Unfortunately, the meds don't last long, but at least she was given relief, and we know what works. 

The ER doctor suspects that she has a bladder/kidney infection because her urine had some WBCs and RBCs (though this is not uncommon because she had a stent placed last week). Her blood WBC count has also jumped up some. She has no fever at this time. They started her on an antibiotic. The CT scan shows the Cancer tumors but this doctor was not qualified to make any interpretations about the Cancer, just that her stent is properly in place, her bowel pattern is normal - no obstruction or obvious invasion by the tumor - and there is no fluid buildup. Her abdomen is still distended, firm and painful. We are making sure these doctors send all reports, scans, and labwork to her trial doctors at Sarah Cannon. 

To be completely honest, this is taking a toll on Mrs Barbara's physical body. She has lost nearly 10 pounds on her already small frame, which no doubt has further weakened her. Please continue to pray for renewed strength in her mind, body and spirit. She is still the tough woman we all know, who continues to fight and doesn't want the doctors or anyone to give up on her. I will update again when we have more information or changes. 

Update after Doctor visit: they do NOT believe there is a kidney infection, as WBCs and RBCs can be present in the urine when a stent has been placed. They are putting her on a pain pump to help with pain manangement. There does not seem to be a bowel obstruction on the CT scan, but they are going to administer suppositories for nausea and to get her bowels moving. One of the doctors looking after her is an oncologist with her trial doctor, so they are keeping each other in the loop. Wonderful doctors and nurses, great bedside manner and compassion. I feel she is in great hands. 

Heavenly Father, I lift up the doctors and nurses to You today. I pray their observations and decisions are guided by You. I pray they are moved by Your Presence in Mrs Barbara and that their lives are blessed by crossing her path. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen.

Brain Scan = No Cancer!

I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! -Deuteronomy 32:3

I know many are anxious to hear about the MRI results from today, and I am happy to report that all is clear in Mrs Barbara's brain. Praise God! There is no evidence of any Cancer there or anything else within the brain that would be causing her cognitive symptoms. So, basically, the pain meds are to blame for her hallucinations, delirium, and confusion. We have been able to go back up on her pain patch and down on her breakthrough meds which seems to be helping as well. 

She is still uncomfortable and has been battling some abdominal distention and occassional sharp pains and nausea. The doctor thinks she may be constipated, so she will be doing a "clean out" similar to a colonoscopy bowel prep to clear out her colon. Our hope is this will make her more comfortable and reduce some of her pain. 

Her next CT scan of her abdomen will be in 2 weeks. Please continue to pray that her Cancer tumors are succumbing to the immunotherapy and that her pain, fatigue, and discomfort are replaced with energy, strength, and comfort. 

Heavenly Father, I praise You today for the good news we were given! My heart is still heavy as I watch my precious Mother-in-Love struggling, but at the same time is so filled with a hope that only You could give. In Jesus Name I Pray,  Amen!

Brain Scan Tomorrow

He reveals mysteries from the darkness and brings the deepest darkness into the light. - Job 12:22

In the last post, I mentioned that there is a light at the end of the tunnel...we just cant see it yet. Well, there is still darkness, and the tunnel feels long. Mrs. Barbara has experienced several down times in her battle against ovarian cancer. None of them have lasted this long. It is easy to get discouraged, but we are holding on to the promise in the verse above.

In the last week, she has experienced some severe side effects from the pain medicines. After her stent procedure last Tuesday, where they gave her additional pain medicines and anesthesia, she went into a pain medicine induced delirium. By Thursday she was extremely disoriented, confused, fidgety, and hallucinating. The doctors were able to see all of this at her appointment and advised us to decrease the dose of her pain patch. Within 24 hours, she had improved significantly, but her pain had returned. Over the weekend, she has battled an increase in pain and still having some residual confusion and hallucinations as we try to rebalance the pain medicines. Some of her hallucinations are so vivid and real that she has a difficult time understanding what is reality. This has been very frustrating for her. We are staying with her at all times, so that she feels safe. After updating the doctors and nurses today on her condition, they have decided they would like to do an MRI of her brain to rule out any spread of disease. The scan will be tomorrow with an appointment Thursday to go over the results. They do not plan to change anything with her pain medicines until after reviewing the scan results.

On a positive note, she visited the retina specialist today for her 2nd monthly shot for macular degeneration, and the doctor stated that her eye has improved after the 1st shot!

Please continue to lift Mrs. Barbara in prayer. She has not felt well enough to take many phone calls or get on the internet, but we share your messages, words of encouragement, and cards with her.  With the exception of immediate family, of course, please hold any phone calls and texts for now. She will reach out once she is feeling better. I will try to keep the blog updated as much as possible, and you are always welcome to email or Facebook message me with any questions.

Heavenly Father, thank You for your promise of light in the darkness. Please help keep our eyes open to your miracles and blessings. Lord, I pray that the brain scan is clear and that as these trial medicines work, the pain will begin to subside. We love you so much, Lord, and lift up Mrs. Barbara into your healing arms. In Jesus Name I Pray. Amen.

"Tumor Flare"

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -Romans 5:3-5

It has been a busy 2 weeks. Mrs. Barbara's pain continues to persist. This has been her longest stretch of pain since undergoing surgery almost 1 year ago. I won't lie. This is hard. It's hard to watch your wife, mother, mother-in-love, Memere, sister, aunt, daughter, friend, neighbor struggle with pain with no definitive end in sight. It's even harder to see her spirits wax and wane and wonder if it is just the drugs confusing her or if her true spirit is diminishing. That's when the doubt for all of us creeps in. It doesn't feel good. That's when the enemy smiles and sneaks himself in. What do we do? The first step is recognizing the lies. When you can acknowledge truth versus lie, you can kick the enemy right to the curb. The lie is "She is dying." The truth is "She is fighting." With cancer, you have to throw all expectations about what a "fight" looks like out the door.

We have gotten some helpful answers in the last two weeks. After some uncomfortable abdominal swelling, Mrs. Barbara was sent for an ultrasound to look for fluid, or ascites. IF they found it, they would have removed it with a small needle. Thankfully, there was not any concerning fluid in her abdomen. A potential pain cause ruled out, but still no answer. Then we had an appointment with the urologist. He discussed the need for a stent to be placed in her right ureter to prevent the tumor from further pinching the ureter and causing a backup of urine into the kidney. We understood his concerns, but still didn't have a clear answer for the pain, so before agreeing to the stent (which could cause additional abdominal discomfort), we wanted clear answers on what exactly was causing all this pain.

We spoke with the trial doctor and nurse practitioner who both explained that the immune system response, or "tumor flare", was most likely to blame for the pain she is describing (a powerful, heavy pressure in her lower abdomen - like the "elephant on your chest" but on your lower belly). She has the raquetball-sized tumor and several tiny tumors on the inside, and all of these tumors and the abdominal and spinal lymph nodes are all enlarged, most likely from these immunotherapy clinical trials drugs kicking in. It's an uncomfortable process, but within the expectation of the medicines beginning to work. There will be another CT scan in 4-6 weeks, and we will have an even better idea if this is the case. Also, after changing around her medicines some, the pain management doctor has found a combo and dosage that seems to be working. She just had the stent placed today, so hopefully she won't have a lot of pain related to that procedure. So far, so good! Overall, when these trial drugs work, the immune system response will calm down while continuing to fighting the cancer, and then her pain will begin to decrease. So...there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We just can't see it yet. Which is why I am holding on to the verse above, and all of us fighting along side Mrs. Barbara, as caregiver, prayer partner, friend, neighbor, loved one from afar should too. Because when she can't pray these things, we know the Holy Spirit is lifting her up, as it says in Romans 8:26-27:

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

For many of you reading this, who are very close to Mrs. Barbara, who have reached out to me inquiring about how she is doing, we are very grateful for your concern and love and prayers! She has been off the phone and Facebook because she has spent quite a lot of time resting and going back and forth with these latest procedures and doctor appointments. We anticipate this will be the case for the foreseeable future. No doubt she will reach out as soon as she is able. Please continue to send up prayers. She loves getting your messages of support and cards in the mail! And I share each of your concerns with her. Each message blesses her! Please feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or by email if you need more information.

Heavenly Father, I continue to lift up my precious Mother-in-Love to you! I give You many praises for her safety during the procedure today. Lord, I pray for Your Spirit to move inside her so that she can feel your loving and supportive Presence and be restored. I pray the effects of the medicines serve their purpose while not causing additional pain or discomfort. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen.

Afflicted with Pain and CT Scan Update

But as for me, afflicted and in pain—
    may your salvation, God, protect me. - Psalm 69:29

Please continue to pray, dear friends and family. This is the first time since undergoing surgery, that Mrs. Barbara has had persistent and relentless pain. She has pain medication, but there are fears related to side effects of those medicines and the body becoming tolerant, dependent or even addicted, which have led to difficulties in managing the pain. Pray for wisdom from the Lord to help her work through her pain management.

CT Scan Results:

Here are the main take-aways from this first CT scan since starting the immunotherapy trial...

  • There is continued growth of previously measured areas on the scan (lymph nodes and tumors/lesions) - they expected this. It may be indicating that there is an immune response around and at the tumors/nodes. The immune response would cause slight swelling as it floods the area with white blood cells and immune system fighter cells. The hope is that with the next scan in 6 weeks, there will be no additional growth and things will be "stable".
  • No new areas of growth
  • Lungs are clear, no lesions/masses or enlarged lymph nodes in the chest
  • Nodule on the capsule (covering) of the liver, but NOT inside the liver
    • Capsule of the liver has nerve endings which can be irritated by the nodule
    • Nodule is positioned where it could be rubbing rib cage which could cause pain
  • Lymph nodes by the spine are enlarged...This was expected with this treatment…means the immune system is revved up and activated
  • Cancer itself wouldn’t have caused this much increase in size. Dr. believes the swelling and increase in size may be due to the immune response in the area around the lymph nodes and nodules.
  • Largest node is size of a raquetball and causing a pinching of the RIGHT ureter which is causing urine to backup into the kidney (hydronephrosis – slight swelling of the kidney). This is another cause of abdominal pain and low back pain…referred pain from the kidney

The plan going forward is to continue with her treatment in the trial. Her immune system is responsive, and so far, what they see, is what they expected. The main goal at this time is to get her pain under control. It has been around 7-8 out of 10 at times, and that is not acceptable. She is under the care of a palliative care specialist, who works closely with the trial doctor to help her with side effects and pain management. I  met him yesterday. He is FANTASTIC. Another doctor with the heart of a teacher, who genuinely wants her to feel better and won't stop working with her each week until her pain is under control. He did a great job explaining the pain medicines they are trying and how they work together to keep pain managed. Those fears of addiction, tolerance and dependence were all discussed and explained in detail.  They are also, proactively, bringing in a urologist to assist with any needs related to the hydronephrosis. It is possible a stent may be needed if the pinching of the ureter does not stop or begins to affect her kidney function. Continue to pray that the trial medicines are indeed working and that her body's immune system continues to wake up, recognize the cancer and attack it all while affording her the least amount of discomfort. Continue to pray for her vision, that it would at least stop deteriorating, if not reverse and improve! Your prayers, words of encouragement, and support are greatly appreciated and always noticed! Thank you for joining us on the Pilgrimage to Healing! My hope continues to be that all who come here to be updated on Mrs. Barbara will also be blessed by her journey.

Heavenly Father, I hate seeing my Mother-in-Love in pain! I feel helpless. The human nature in me wants to fix it for her, and so much of it is out of my control. Lord, I know I have to lift her struggles up to You. I know deep down that You have this...that you have HER in your loving arms. I pray she feels You more than the pain. In Jesus Name I Pray. Amen.

Prayers for a Cracked Pot

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.'

The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?' 'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.'

For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.'

- Author Unknown

Have you ever heard the story of the cracked pot? I had not until I started Google searching after learning that Mrs. Barbara has just been diagnosed with macular degeneration. One of her eyes had a significant decrease in vision over the last couple weeks. When it hadn't improved, she went to the eye doctor. The doctor saw blood in the eye and immediately referred her to a specialist the next day, who diagnosed her with macular degeneration in both eyes. The eye with the vision changes is "wet", which means there are bleeding vessels behind the retina. The other eye has the "dry" form - the macula is deteriorating. There is no pain, just a progressive or sometimes sudden loss of vision. But once there is damage, it cannot be repaired. The doctor explained it this way: the retina/macula is like concrete. As it ages, there can become cracks. When new blood vessels form and come up through the cracks, you get "wet" macular degeneration.

Very interesting description...one that led to my coming across the Cracked Pot story. A story that I feel describes Mrs. Barbara and her new diagnosis. On top of everything else going on in her life, anything new like this can be scary and defeating. One more diagnosis to add to the list along with another drug or two and no doubt the negative emotions at times. Why does her body seem to fail...crack...leak? I wish I had the answer, but only God does, and I find comfort in that I don't have to have all the answers. But I do want to share that amidst all the things BAD that happen to her on this journey, I continue to witness a valiant warrior. She is holding on tightly to the possibility that these clinical trial medicines are working in her body to reverse the cancer growth. She is battling daily through each side effect (fatigue, fever, lower abdominal pain, aches, GI issues, insomnia, etc). It is quite amazing to witness what is "leaking" from her...perseverance, dedication, gratitude, love, humility to name a few. And she is growing some pretty awesome flowers in the process. God has a purpose for His cracked pots. Let Him fill you up, so you can leak out His good works.

Heavenly Father, I lift up my precious Mother-in-Love to you tonight. She is going through so much right now. I pray that she continues to find the small blessings on her journey. I pray others continue to see You in her. I pray we all can appreciate and embrace our cracks like it is written in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "Your grace is sufficient for us; for Your strength is made perfect in weakness." In Jesus Precious Name, Amen.

Clinical Trial in Progress!

"How do you shake the defeated mindset and make BATTLING CANCER a part of your life?  EMBRACE the struggle.  At some point, “SURVIVING” becomes more about the journey than the destination and you find yourself delighted over the smallest accomplishments.  If you can find something that excites you, that keeps you going even when you’re not moving as fast as you might like to – if you can remain passionate and motivated – you’re almost guaranteed to succeed."

I read the fitness article linked below (which is a great read, by the way), and as I read the above paragraph, I immediately reread it with the all-caps words in my head. (I find myself finding "hidden" messages about this Pilgrimage in many unexpected places. God speaking to me? I think so!) Now, I am not a survivor of cancer. I am one of the caregivers of an amazing woman who is. I KNOW that there are moments, hours, days when you don't feel like embracing the journey you are on. But a survivor has probably been on other journeys that weren't so great, but they have moved forward from it. I whole-heartedly believe that an overall positive outlook and mindset can save your life. Even if God calls you home in the struggle, you have been living your life...and that is truly success. 

My amazing Mother-in-Love is doing very well. There has been some shuffling since the last post and now that things are coming together, I have reliable information to share. She has started a trial! Officially in it...it's happening...Praise God! This team moved promptly! In addition, the trial nurse had her gearing up for one trial and heard about an even better one and made it happen! She said its kinda like the stock market - all these people in a room raising their hands to get a patient on a list. She said she nearly yelled to get Mrs Barbara on there! Thank you, Lord, for her advocacy! The consent and pre-trial blood work and testing was done the next week, including another CT scan (including her chest this time-which insurance denied but the study sponsor picks up the cost!) and EKG. Her heart and lungs look great and blood counts are right in range. Another amazing finding was that the largest tumor that has been measured since February is not even visible on the last 2 scans! It is possible that it is not visible because of the positioning of something in front of it, but we'd like to think that God's mercy has been shown and that little ball of bad behavior is starting to act right and go away! There are several tiny lesions (not really measurable, described as like rice) scattered in her abdomen that weren't there before which is why they say the Cancer is still "growing" and why we're hopeful this trial will slow or stop the growth. 

The trial will consist of taking 2 different drugs which both target a different pathway that tumors can use to evade the immune system fighter cells. She will take a pill twice daily and get an infusion through her port once every 3 weeks. Last week was the start of Cycle 1. She had a long 12 hr day of blood draws and received her first pills. They do an EKG to check heart rhythms when she is there. Part of being in a trial is to figure out how the human body metabolizes the drug, and in this trial, when both drugs are combined. She returned the next day for more blood work and the infusion. This week she only returns to get some blood work done, and then will head out to her home in East TN for some R&R. She is able to take the pills home and takes them on her own without having to return. She will get CT scans every 6-8 weeks to monitor progress and as long as the drugs are working, she can stay in the trial! The trial sponsor picks up all costs that insurance does not, including both drugs! So far, NO SIDE EFFECTS! She feels good! A huge blessing! Thank you for your patience on the updates and continued prayers for this beloved lady! *If you have any specific questions about the trial she has started you can email me directly or private FB message me, and I will be happy to discuss it further. 

Here is the fitness article if you're interested: http://www.eattoperform.com/2015/01/04/10-things-the-best-athletes-do-that-you-dont/

Heavenly Father, Thank You for speaking to me in the most unexpected ways! Thank You for bringing me to a place in my life where I can find You in all the nooks and crannies. You provide everything I need and do not deserve. Lord, I pray for all the survivors that they will find themselves in a place of excitement, delight, and passion as long as they are here on Earth and that the darkness of their journey transforms into the Light You are inside of us! In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen!

Sing a New Song

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. - Colossians 3:16

  • "Sing a new song unto the Lord
  • Let your song be sung
  • From mountains high
  • Sing a new song unto the Lord
  • Singing A-le-lu-ia!"  - Psalm 98

Our church is studying the above verse in our current sermon series, and it couldn't be more fitting for today. I sure felt like breaking into song today! Clinic trials are a go! After 2.5 hours of waiting, we met with an oncologist today who specializes in new drug development at TN Oncology through the Sarah Cannon Research Institute. I have to say the wait was tough, but he and his team were worth waiting for! He said there are several options available, and him and his research nurses will be reviewing the inclusion/exclusion criterion to see what will be the best fit for Mrs Barbara. We hope to have an idea by Thursday or early next week. The plan is to start the treatment of choice the week of the 20th (her birthday week!). In the meantime, they may order additional bloodwork and scans and she may have multiple appointments before officially starting, just depends on the trial she enters. They are leaning towards a type of Cancer treatment called immunotherapy. It basically helps wake up the body's immune system to recognize and fight the Cancer again (it is believed that some cancers may operate under the radar of the immune system). These meds may have very different side effects than what we're used to, but the nurses feel like those side effects are more rare and less bothersome. Some patients don't even have any side effects! 

So...we don't have a plan just yet, but it is already in the works. We met a wonderful doctor today - great bedside manner, full of hope, and very knowledgeable. He even gave Mrs Barbara a hug before he left the room! And his nurses were friendly and optimistic and encouraging. This entire medical group has been very transparent with lab results and scan reports and has been answering all of our questions graciously and patiently.  We are very grateful for them! Please continue to pray for healing and guidance for the doctor as he chooses 2 or 3 options out of many to treat this Cancer. Please pray for Mrs. Barbara's spirit - the not-so-great news yesterday and the fears of insurance hiccups cause great anxiety. Pray the Devil and his ways of dampening our spirit of Hope stays far away from her now more than ever! Thank you all for your messages of love and support! Every one is read and is a blessing! 

Heavenly Father, how great is your mercy! Thank You for the sweet doctor and nurses today! Their optimism was refreshing and a sign of your comforting Presence. Thank you for the time shared with Mrs Barbara and Coach while we waited. Lord, I pray you put a new song in my heart each day that I may sing Your praises and look to You first before getting consumed by the fears and challenges in front of me. In Jesus Name I  Pray. Amen!

Change of Plans

"My grace is sufficient for you; for my strength is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Corinthians 12:9

"I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection." - Thomas Paine

It's been just over a month since Mother's Day. I would like to apologize for the less frequent updates. I have thought about writing many times, but have found myself in front of the computer less now that it is summer. We have welcomed summer with open arms. Swimming pools, Vacation Bible Schools, going to the park, road trips, and even ice hockey skating lessons (what better way to cool off in the heat, right?!). One of our recent road trips was to Texas. We traveled with Mrs. Barbara and Coach to visit Chad, Tricia, Jessi and Ella on their ranch and also met up with Nick, Brittney and Easton. We all spent a long Father's Day weekend together fishing, digging with a backhoe and Bobcat, riding on a 4-wheeler, feeding chickens and goats, riding a pony, star-gazing (I have NEVER seen so many brilliant stars!), eating some fabulous food (including bonfire s'mores), and swimming in their new pool. Ranch life is pretty exciting, especially for the kids, and it is one of Mrs. Barbara's favorite places to be. It was a fantastic break from treatment. Probably one of the best treatments for her cancer - She visited with her boys and got to watch her grandkids play together, while resting and relaxing. They left for her to head back to Nashville for her most recent CT scan.

We met with the oncologist today to go over the results of her scan and 2 genetic tumor profiles (one from MD Anderson and the other called Foundation One) and to start a new cycle of chemo. However, after reviewing the CT scan results, it was decided to stop her current chemotherapy plan. The scan shows growth...growth in the existing tumor and lymph nodes that they have been measuring (just slight growth, like the size of a kidney stone), but also shows new growth of tiny lesions widespread in her abdominal cavity. The doctors expect cancer to stop or shrink with treatment, so if you have any growth, they consider the treatment to be a failure and move on to something else that might work. In the doctor's opinion, these particular meds will only make her sick while NOT killing her cancer. So...she believes her next plan is to try clinical trials again. The genetic testing came back helpful in that it identified 4 mutations, 3 of which have potential clinical trials that she may qualify for. Mrs. Barbara has been referred to clinical trials within her current oncology group, which means her current oncologist will work with this new doctor to find the best treatment for her. By the grace of God, they had an opening to see him...TOMORROW. She will have to wait a minimum 4 weeks from her last chemo dose to start anything (this allows the previous chemo drugs to get out of the system), so, though we are discouraged some by the CT results, we are encouraged that she will have a couple more weeks to rest, get strong, and enjoy some additional time with family, and that this new doctor will bring additional knowledge to the table. I will post additional information on the new plan after we see the clinical trials doctor tomorrow.

A few weeks ago, Mrs. Barbara came to watch the boys in their ice hockey skating lessons. They LOVE hockey, but had not figured out yet how to stay up on the ice with all the gear on. She saw them fall...ALOT. (Thank goodness they wear gear or they would have been black and blue.) Hockey is the one sport my boys haven't complained one bit about putting on all the gear, and they fall off/on the entire lesson and keep coming back for more! She mentioned to me that she wished they would play something else because she just couldn't stand to see them fall so much. I told her that she would know better than anyone how NOT to give up when something is difficult. Now, my boys LOVE hockey, but to us outsiders, there is admiration in their determination to learn this sport they love. Mrs. Barbara LOVES her life, and to us outsiders, there is great respect and admiration in her determination to live her life. It then made me wonder how many of us miss that point in our own lives. You feel weak, physically and emotionally and sometimes spiritually, need help from other people, and you fall down. But to some outsider who sees your journey through something difficult (cancer, divorce, lawsuit, addiction, grief, infertility, chronic illness, etc) you are a source of strength to them. That is God in you and working through you. That's where there is goodness in the battle. And remember, most likely there is someone out there who sees your journey and their life is changed because of it.

Heavenly Father, I am sad about the results of the CT scan today, but I know You are at work in this Pilgrimage. I pray for continued Peace and Comfort beyond understanding for Mrs. Barbara today. I continue to pray that the same healing hands that were nailed on the cross for me will heal my Mother in Love's cancer. Lord, take it from her body! Lord, I pray for the man we will meet tomorrow, that he is guided by You. Thank You for showing up in ways big and small, and thank You for Your continued Grace and Love as we put our trust in You. In Jesus Name I Pray, Amen.

My Mother in Love

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (‭Matthew‬ ‭7‬:‭7‬ NIV)

Mother's Day weekend was fantastic! We spent some lovely quality time with Mrs Barbara at her "big house". The kids had a great time bonding with nature and their Memere. We even met a nice toad named "Tree". With Memere's help, the boys cut down some small trees and rode in the Kubota, and we filled up the pond with creek water. Lots of fun, laughter, relaxation...just what was needed to take a break from treating cancer (though I believe those breaks are doing amazing things in her body to help fight the Cancer).

I had a lot of emotions about motherhood and my mother-in-law approaching this Mother's Day, and like I sometimes do, I shared them with her via a poem. The title was Mother In Love...and that is exactly how I shall refer to her now. She is much more to me than an "in-law" and my reference to her should reflect that. 

 She started Cycle 2 this past Thursday. She received another dose of Gemzar and will add in Carboplatin today and receive a Neulasta shot (helps boost her WBC count) tomorrow. This will likely be tough on her body the next few days, but she is armed with an arsenal of supportive medication, the love and concern of her friends and family, the power of prayer and the obvious Presence of our powerful and healing God! She is scheduled for another CT scan on June 3rd. Please pray that the Cancer has stopped growing, or more so DISAPPEARED!! Also, Prayer Warriors, we ask for additional prayers for Mrs. Barbara's mother, Maw Maw Dean. She fell this week and is recovering in the hospital after needing a chest tube and stitches on her ankle. 

Heavenly Father, today, in this moment I find a Peace in reading your Word. All I need to do is ask, seek, and knock! Thank you for wanting a relationship with me. And though I desire to know so much more than You reveal to me, I thank You for only giving me the glimpses that are meant for me. It helps me come to You, which is exactly where I need to be. Lord, I pray for my Mother In Love, friends and family that are suffering now, those that need answers and are in a time of unknown. I pray they ask, seek, and knock and find your amazing grace, mercy and healing! In Jesus Name I pray. Amen!

CT Update, More Chemo...and Fruits.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him. " -Lamentations 3:22-24

CT Update: Many of you have asked about the results of the CT scan from last week. I am very pleased to report that after 2.5 months of being off of chemo, that Mrs. Barbara's small tumor seen in February has grown just a tiny bit!! Praise God! It was very possible that it could have increased significantly in size, but that is NOT the case! There are some pelvic lymph nodes that have increased a small amount in size, and they will now watch these, but there is not any alarm or concern about this. It is possible that it could be cancer in the nodes, but also possible that it is just some inflammation.

Chemotherapy is under way. Mrs. Barbara has received 2 doses of the Gemzar chemotherapy as of today. She will not receive any chemo next week, but will have blood work drawn. Her WBC counts were a little low before the chemo today, so they will keep a close eye on those numbers next week. When WBCs drop too low, your body is at risk of not being able to fight off simple germs, viruses, bacterias, etc. Therefore, Mrs. Barbara could get very sick from something "minor". It could be serious if that happens, but the good thing is that your immune system can recover quickly, so the "OFF" week can be very helpful to her body. It is also important to practice good hand-washing, steer clear of crowds or anyone sick, and be careful of the foods you consume and how they are cooked. After this first cycle (ends next week) if she tolerates everything ok, they will consider adding the chemo drug Carboplatin, a platinum drug, back to her regimen. This was one of the first chemos she had starting back in December. It was thought at one point that she was "platinum resistant" (the cancer was not responding to the drug); however, this doctor feels she was not on it long enough to make that determination. This is great news! Once you are "Platinum-resistant", doctors are less likely to try other platinum drugs, and as of now, platinum drugs, specifically Carboplatin, are considered the firstline treatment for ovarian cancer.

Mrs. Barbara had some adversity to overcome this last week. She went in to starting chemo again with alot of energy and bravery. Chemo the first time was hard and took some time to adjust, and just as she was adjusting, everything changed. But Mrs. Barbara hasn't flinched at starting chemo again. You know it's no fun, but then with a new drug, you don't know what to expect. Her body responded a little differently to the Gemzar, even with just ONE dose. First, there were deep aches in the arms and legs, that moved to the hips. There was some fatigue and a mild amount of nausea (but we're learning how to beat the nausea! Her regimen worked much better this time). There are GI issues and there was a lot of insomnia. But all of these issues are manageable, and this medical team is very willing to do whatever necessary to keep her comfortable.

When she arrived today for treatment, her visit began with blood work. It was clear that the technician in the office was not in the best of moods. Mrs. Barbara kindly stated the obvious to her, "I can tell by the look on your face, that you haven't had a good morning." (Gotta love this woman's honesty!!) The woman replied honestly that she had not, but that she was ok. The technician noticed that her hands were cold, and Mrs. Barbara replied that that always are, along with her feet, but "warm heart..(everyone smiles)...unless you ask my husband" (laughter). Mrs. Barbara continued to "cut-up" with the lady giving her permission to cause her pain (with the finger pricking). She made the lady smile at least 3 times. There was kindness and goodness in her honesty (so hard to capture what I witnessed in words). And most of all...LOVE. It would have been easy to let that woman's sour attitude turn her sour or to keep quiet and talk about her later, but she didn't. She chose to love her in that moment, and then move on. Mother Theresa once said, "Don't look for big things, just do small things with great love." I am thinking that Mrs. Barbara changed this lady's perspective, if not just for that moment in her presence, but for the rest of the day. The Holy Spirit was clearly with Mrs. Barbara this morning, as I know He always is, but to see it is such a beautiful thing. I saw God's grace and humor in her today, not to mention His peace, kindness, and goodness...He gifted her with several fruits of the Spirit today in that one moment. I wonder how often we notice those gifts in others, or even in ourselves. Do we recognize when the Spirit is working? Do we give Him the credit He deserves?

Heavenly Father, Thank You for "gracing" me with Your Presence today! I know You are always with us, but what a privilege to see You working through someone I love so dearly! I, with so many others, continue to pray for complete healing of Mrs. Barbara's cancer. Lord, please calm the inflammation in her body, reprogram the cancer cells to be eliminated, and restore her body to great health, and in doing so, may all the Glory be Yours!! In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

A New Day...A New Doctor...A New Plan

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭13-14‬ NIV)

Since our return from MD Anderson a few weeks ago, we have been working to get the insurance to approve one of the drugs for Mrs. Barbara's clinical trial. One of the drugs was initially denied by insurance. Since it would cost $8000/month to pay out of pocket, they then reached out to the drug company to see if they would cover it. Unfortunately, all avenues to get the drug paid for haven't worked out, and currently, there are not any other trials at MD Anderson for Mrs. Barbara to participate in. 

So, we then made the decision to look for a new doctor in Nashville to get a plan in motion. Trials will always be an option in the future, but the time it takes to wait for that opportunity in Houston is not a luxury we have. I made several phone calls to find a doctor who would take Mrs. Barbara on as a patient. At the reccomendation of a friend, we were pleased to find a doctor who asked to see her records right away, took a look that same day and scheduled her an appointment. The doctor is also conveniently located only 10 minutes from Mrs. Barbara's townhome! 

While waiting for the first appointment, Mrs Barbara was blessed once again by surprise visits from Chad and Nick. We all travelled out to their home in East TN and helped clear some fallen trees from the ice storms back in February. She LOVES to be at her home there. There is more space, and the land is serene and peaceful with a mountain creek running at the property's edge. She had some great mother-son bonding time...just what she needed to recharge as she faced the uncertainty of a new doctor and hopefully a new plan. 

Her first appointment was last Wednesday. (I have been out of the country for my sisters wedding the last week, so I apologize for the delay in posting the update!) Her name is Dr Blakely, and she is a medical oncologist with the TN Oncology group in Nashville. She did her training at MD Anderson and has treated other patients with carcinosarcoma. She was very personable, spoke in laymans terms and seems to have the heart of a teacher. Her reccomendation was to get new CT scans ASAP (thank goodness because we have wanted these for over a month now!), order a blood test called NextGen (would locate cancer cells in the blood and isolate the cancer's DNA and test it for mutations), and start on a chemo called Gemzar while waiting for the results of the NextGen test. If those results aren't helpful, she reccomends biopsy of a tumor to send off for the FoundationOne mutation test. The benefit to having answers about mutations is that she could enter a clinical trial that is targeted towards a specific mutation. There is a lot of promise in this "targeted therapy". Apparently, the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center here in Nashville has access to more of these Phase I clinical trials than MD Anderson. We are very encouraged by the knowledge and practicality of this doctor and her reccomended plan. 

So, the upcoming plan includes CT scans today, then additional bloodwork, a chest X-ray and starting the Gemzar tomorrow after meeting with Dr Blakely about the CT results. The Gemzar will be given in cycles...1 cycle = Gemzar 1x/week for 2 weeks, then off a week. After 2 cycles (~6 weeks) she will recheck the CT scans. As long as the treatment is working, they will continue to do it. If it is not helping or stops working, that's when we will look at the trials. 

In all honesty, aside from being with her family, the last few weeks have been tough. There are feelings of isolation when doctors don't seem to have a plan for you and abandonment when things are not getting covered by insurance. Tiny bumps in the road can feel like speed bumps that made you bottom out. It is tiring dealing with multiple phone calls to doctor offices and insurance companies, and there are moments of great anxiety when time is not on your side. You can lose focus and purpose. But it is getting to that place when I then realize our faith has been put in humans, and even in the best circumstances with the people that love us the most, even those people will still fail us, but He never will. And He has been there all along...quietly whispering "It's OK. I got this. Trust Me."

So, today, we move forward, press ahead towards the prize, with faith in our Lord and not always in humans. 

Heavenly Father, Thank You for never leaving us alone. For being by our sides, though we stray from noticing You and even stop listening to You. Thank You for not abandoning us when others do. Lord, I continue to pray for a miracle to happen in Mrs Barbara's body. That the doctor's would be blown away by what they see on the CT today and that all the glory be given to You! And if that is not Your Will, I pray for continued strength and sense of Your presence as Mrs Barbara battles this Cancer together with You by her side. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!

Clinical Trial Appointment Update

"One must know that there is a path at the end of the road." - Mrs. Barbara's Fortune Cookie

We ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant last night. Her “fortune” is such a great message to keep in mind on this journey of survival. It paints a picture of HOPE. The road may end, but remember there’s still a path. And for Mrs. Barbara, her path is only gently worn, and her travel down it may turn it into a road for other people. How brave!!

Today, we met with Dr. Fu, one of MD Anderson’s clinical trial doctors. He reviewed Mrs. Barbara’s history, did a brief physical exam, and then went out of the room to search the trial database at MDA to find a trial that she may fit into. He returned about 30 minutes later, along with his Clinical Coordinator (a doctor who helps run the trial and educates the patient on the benefits and risks) and stated that he had a trial in mind that he felt would be a good start. Dr. Fu drew on a whiteboard as he explained how cancer tumors behave and how these particular trial medications are thought to attack the cancer. He was quick but thorough. We asked a few questions, and he left the rest up to the Coordinator. We were very grateful for him seeing us today. We were worked in as a favor, and they were very kind.

Treating cancer is very complicated. I will try to be brief in my description of the trial that Mrs. Barbara will hopefully start in the coming weeks. (She meets the eligibility requirements, but we still have to wait for insurance approval.) I will not share the particular trial number or the drugs being used on the blog just yet. We would like some time to review the trial information and risks, and once she has officially started, we may do so later. If you would like this information, please feel free to email me privately. The trial she is considering is a Phase 1 trial involving 2 FDA approved drugs. Each drug has been approved individually to treat different cancers, but neither has been used together, which makes this treatment “experimental.” One drug targets a tumor’s ability to develop blood vessels and starves it of oxygen. The other drug affects the tumor’s ability to genetically change or evolve (which leads to mutation and metastasis). Her trial will look at which doses of the drugs are tolerable. They start with small doses and make incremental increases as patients tolerate the treatment until they find the highest dose that is effective but doesn’t make the treatment too hard to go through.

Mrs. Barbara can stay in this trial as long as it is helping her. If at any time, she finds a better option, has significant side effects, or the treatment isn’t working, she can choose to the leave the trial. She will have to travel to MD Anderson once a month for the first 6 months. The drugs are taken by mouth and she will take them everyday and get bloodwork drawn weekly. All of this can be done at home. The monthly visits to MD Anderson will be for check ups at the beginning of each cycle. Every 2nd month, they will do imaging and check bloodwork to see if the treatment is helping.

We are very encouraged that there is a trial for her to try. We’re praying insurance will cover the trial medications and that she can start on April 9th. In the meantime, there is more waiting, but we have a plan…and there is peace in that. The next 2 weeks will be about enjoying life, and making future preparations to travel to MD Anderson regularly. I flew home to Nashville this evening, and Mrs. Barbara and Coach are headed to visit Chad and his family. Our separation was bittersweet. I miss my family waiting at home, but I already miss Mrs. Barbara and Coach too. We can’t be everywhere…that’s God’s job. And He is very much with her, and knowing that gives me peace. Please continue to pray for a miracle, that the cancer tumors stop growing and go away!

Lord, Thank you for the ability to travel to this place. Thank You for what feels like an aligning of the stars to get a treatment plan! We know that where we are now is because of Your amazing grace and mercy! Lord, Thank You for the road, but even more so for the path that follows. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.