Thursday, September 18, 2014

TOUGH TOUGH TOUGH

The old adage goes: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I will add one word: The road to medical hell is paved with good medical intentions.

I’m not sure I have had a week this bad in my life. Chemotherapy is meant to arrest development of cancer cells. But why does it have to nearly kill you to do that?

I will spare you from all the details, but I will simply say that the past week has brought some of the most excruciating abdominal pain I have ever experienced, the worst medical care in an ER ever, a hospitalization, more pain, horrendous chemo-induced constipation, daily trips to the city for radiation, and now, a stomach that is shut down and will not empty.

The week has brought more tears than I have shed in 4 years. It has thrown my faith in healing back in my face to take stock. It has brought me to the point of asking my husband to leave me so that he can have a life, and have it with someone who has life and energy and vitality, someone who is not chronically sick. He deserves that. I have asked him this week to stick an anchor around my neck and drop me in the muddy Vermillion River.

That’s how bad it is right now.

As of yesterday, they have taken me off the new chemo drug. I see my medical oncologist next week and we will talk. I talked today to my radiation oncologist, who is wonderful, but he was real and told me that lung cancer patients are going to see metastases to the brain and bones and other organs…..and my mind was at once, screaming I DO NOT WANT TO DIE A GRUESOME DEATH LIKE THAT and YOU DO NOT KNOW MY GOD, THAT HE IS A HEALER.

Tonight I am laying alone in a motel, due to the gracious care of the American Cancer Society, to cut down on the daily miles. Twice a week now, they are going to put me up in this motel overnight. I am hungry, but can’t eat food because my stomach won’t empty it. I am struggling with God. I am missing my husband. I am feeling badly that when my son called me today, I only blubbered about having had my fill of this life.

I want to set back the clock. I want it to be June 1, with a good PET scan result, taking my old chemo which did not make me sick and in pain, and was able to be managed for the chronic constipation. I want to run back there, to the lake, to my blueberry patch, when all I had to think about was how many quarts we were going to pick that day.

I am grieving the life I have had for 4 years. Am I grateful for it? Oh, yes, so grateful. I guess it is OK to grieve what is gone. I have to at least give myself permission to do that.


For those of you who are my prayer team, please pray that my stomach would kick into gear and that peristalsis would start up again so I could eat. I am down to 100 pounds and look like someone who could star in a movie about concentration camp survivors. My bones show through, my skin sags, and my face is pasty. (I have fantasies of eating a whole pan of my mom’s orange rolls again) Pray that the decisions the cancer team makes about my future treatment would not constitute a life no longer worth living.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

ALL WE COULD ASK FOR

I sort of feel like I've just had an ultrasound and can announce to the world, "It's a girl!"

"It's a daughter-in-law-to-be!!"

Her name is Gretchen Stolhammer. And now I can write all about her because the ring is on her finger!

Yes, Sam is newly engaged to his girlfriend of 3 years!! Richie and I are so happy for them both.

Like many parents, we encouraged Sam to guard his heart in the whole matter of dating. Well, I think I chose to do the same thing. I knew enough family and friends who had become so close to their child’s boyfriend/girlfriend that a subsequent unexpected break-up caused my friends to feel almost as if they had lost a child, and then had a harder time accepting new relationships that their children formed. I did not want to be that close to an “ex" of Sam's, just in case their relationship fell apart. 

While I have certainly mentioned Gretch and have posted a few pictures, I sort of guarded my heart and did not write much about their relationship or her.


Today, the guards have fallen down. And I can talk!!

There is not a parent who has not had the thought, will there ever be any man/woman good enough for my daughter/son?….well, Sam found one!!

I remember thinking, as we raised Sam, that I wanted him to become a young man that any woman would be lucky to snag. I am highly biased, Lord knows, but I think he is a catch. The cool thing is.....Gretchen is a catch too. He is just as blessed as she is that they have chosen the other to meander through life with.
We had some tenuous feelings about him being in this new relationship 3 years ago. Sam asked her to become his girlfriend before we ever knew her. (Sam would like a re-do on that account, but it is water under the bridge now). They had met through mutual friends the prior year, but they re-met and got to know each other while cleaning up vomit of a camper at Miracle Bible Camp when she was the head counselor and he was a last-minute substitute counselor for one week…...a very unglamorous connection, but there must have been something in that unpleasant task or the conversation they must have attempted while holding their breath that led them to want to continue seeing each other...

But, I digress.



So here was this girl, now girlfriend, who was nearly 2 years older than Sam and would be finished with college in 4 months. He had just finished his freshman year. Since we did not know her, we were concerned that she could pressure him into marriage before he was ready, or to leave the college and friends he loved at Dordt to transfer to a Minneapolis college where she was working, or that his grades would suffer by him traveling to the Cities too often on weekends.

But over the course of 3 years, as we got to know and care about Gretchen, we realized that our concerns were for naught, and Gretchen did nothing but support Sam through those years of college with encouragement and space. He was able to keep their long distance relationship working 2 jobs and graduating with a near 4.0 GPA.
So, yes, okay, you want to know about Gretchen. She is cream of the crop. She is down-to-earth, sweet, practical (loves thrift stores and clearance racks like I do), generous and very bright. Did I mention thoughtful? Last year she burned me a CD of praise and worship songs and not only hand-wrote all of the lyrics of each song, but with each, included illustrations, graphics, and words expressing why she loved each song. It was such a great glimpse into her spiritual heart, and such a labor of love.

Infinitely more weighty to me than any of those above qualities, Gretchen loves the Lord more than she loves my son. This was one thing I had always hoped for. Jesus will always be her first love, as He is Sam's, and their faith will always be the anchor and cornerstone of their marriage.
This also means I have a new sister-in-Christ right in my immediate family. How I love this!



My hope is that Gretch will be as comfortable in our small tight-knit family as she is in her large family. We have been “the three musketeers” for 22 years. Over the years Sam has also coined “the fearsome threesome” and “the tight trio.” We have an extraordinarily tight bond between the three of us, a braid of deep love, affection, fun, traditions, and openness.

I would not blink if Gretchen felt some apprehension about joining our trio. But this sweet girl has no resentment of what our past has been. She has never been a mother, but she has an innate understanding of mother-love. She sent me a precious text one night when we were both listening to Sam on a talk-radio program: “Your son is so stinkin’ impressive, and he’s been on-air so much! I’m proud, so that must mean that you are absolutely beaming.”
As the Grinch felt when he witnessed the singing of the Whos down in Whoville, my heart for Gretchen "grew three sizes" that day; she just simply “got it.” It was so sensitive.  I will always honor and respect the fact that she is going to become Sam’s first priority in his life, and I will always champion her first place in their lives together, but I know that she honors the deep love I share with my only child. When I am an old, frail lady in a nursing home, it will probably be Gretchen who will say, “Sam, remember to go have a lunch date with your mom this week.” 

And someday, if God wills it, Gretchen and Sam may have a little boy who hits a home run in a little league game or comforts a crying friend during a play date, or wins the 2nd grade spelling bee, and she will know deep in her soul that nobody could ever be as proud of him as she is, no matter what he does, no matter how old he is.



Now Gretch WILL have to put up with some of these musketeerian traditions: watching I LOVE LUCY marathons, hollering through the Vikes games, learning to play a hot hand of Oh Hell, and eating far too much french silk pie. During our Florida vacations she will need to not only endure cheesy mini-golf at Smuggler's Cove, but eat until she can barely walk out of our favorite Dutch smorgasbord. (The one place in the world where gluttony is considered a temporary blessing)

Lord, I have had a hundred reasons already why I need you to heal me of this cancer. Now I have a hundred and one. This is one role, Lord, that I have always hoped to have and now it can be mine. I am so excited to embrace it.  I have never been a mother-in-law, Lord.  I need you to teach me to be a good one. No, a really really good one. A mother-in-law who supports and loves and encourages. A mother-in-law who Gretchen feels free to share her fears and joys and struggles with. Lord, when her friends ask her about Sam's mom, I want her to be able to smile and not grimace. Lord, you need to mold me into a mother-in-law that reflects Your character. Father, I ask you for all this in the name of Jesus.
Sam's Gretchen is a peach. A dear and Godly girl with a servant heart, a moral backbone, a ream of moxie and mettle, and a winning smile. And she deeply loves my son. There is nothing more a mother could ask for in a wife for her son.



I can’t wait to see how the Lord will use Gretch to bless my life and challenge me as a woman and a Christian. And even more importantly, I can’t wait to see how the Lord will use me to bless and speak into her life in ways that would mean a lot to her.

We have a whole year to think up some new monikers for our new family, but I don’t think that “fearsome foursome” sounds so bad….

Sunday, September 7, 2014

TAKE GOD AT HIS WORD

I find it amusing when I hear Christians and non-Christians alike say things like the Bible is allegorical or metaphorical or that it has to be understood in reference to the culture of that time. Certainly some of the cultural traditions (i.e. women must cover their heads) are understood as norms and mores of that time. But Jesus' words and God's character and God's actions and Jesus' activities while on earth are all timeless. It is clear from Scripture that Jesus/God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. (Hebrews 13:8)

So when I believe the words that Jesus says in the Bible, I believe them for me. Today, Right now. His Word is His will, His intent. God IS His word.

I faced a brand new powerful chemo drug and radiation on Thursday of this week. Together. Like I said in the last post, I get nauseated from Tylenol. 

But then I remembered Mark 16:16-18. AND THESE SIGNS SHALL FOLLOW THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST......In My Name......they will drink deady poison, and it shall not harm them at all.

Well, whatdoyouknow.......Jesus seemed to know all about the toxic chemotherapy drugs that would be ingested by tens of thousands of people in the future. And for those who claimed the promise in His name, they would be protected.

Roll your eyes if you must. Metaphors, you are thinking. 

Not me. I take God AT HIS WORD, because if it is not true, it is all a lie. If it is not truth to stand on, it is a sham. Faith is not HOPING that God might choose to honor His words. Faith is believing He absolutely WILL honor His words.

I walked into Thursday with my heart full of His promise for myself, first into a radiation room, claiming in Jesus' name that not one beam of radiation would hit anything other than the tumor. And 8 hours later, I claimed again that not one speck of the 5 giant horse pills full of cancer-killing drugs would harm my stomach. I claimed that IT WOULD NOT HURT ME.

God is good. I did not vomit. I did not get nauseated. My stomach felt a kilter "off" as the pills were settling in my stomach, but hey, I can handle "off." The cogent thing was that I could eat. 

As the course of both treatments continues, I am expected to be fatigued and rashy. I don't care. All I care is that I can keep food down, and God has given me that miracle. 

THANK YOU for all the prayers! So many of you have interceded for me and God heard every prayer. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.

I share with you a link from my sweet niece Rachel's blog. She is a great mom, a loving foster-mama, and most currently, a writer for the Huffington Post. She wrote a post about me this week which touched my heart. Thanks, Rachie. Love you so much. We'll do a happy dance together when I step onto my Gennasaret.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

HERE WE GO

The call just came. I am set up for radiation at 3:00 today. By the time I get home, I should have received my chemo.

Here we go, folks!

"....And these signs will follow those who believe in Jesus Christ.....In My name, if they drink deadly poison, it WILL NOT HURT THEM AT ALL..... Mark 16:16-18"

I am standing on that! Stand with me in claiming that truth!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

THE CURRENT REGIME

Life is about to change. I love changing my furniture around, love changing out throw pillows and changing up recipes, but I inherited the Hieb gene that does not like fundamental life change.

And it is about to change. At least for 4-6 weeks.

They are going to try to radiate my encapsulated brochial artery and pulmonary artery with targeted radiation. The hope is that it will kill enough of the cancer cells to release the pressure squeezing my airway right now. It will be a course of 4-6 weeks, every day.

Needless to say, commuting every day of the week is not how I want to spend my autumn, but it will get done. I am soliciting names of my girlfriends who are not working fulltime to be on call for driving me if the fatigue factor gets bad or if Dick cannot accompany me. I have such awesome friends ready to stand in the gap for me.

I was supposed to begin the new chemo tomorrow, but because it is so new, the warehouse was unable to get it to me today and I will need to wait until Thursday to begin.

So I will start both regimes on Thursday.

As I said before, my biggest concern is eating, being able avoid all of the potential GI side effects from the drug. Today when I got home I searched for the verses in Scripture that promise God's protection. He is beside me, ahead of me as a shield, a fortress, and has me under the shadow of His wings. I had these great images of protection. I am claiming by faith in His word, which cannot lie, that I will be protected from all of the side effects of the drug.

This is coming from a girl who gets nauseated from Tylenol, folks.

The side effects of the radiation are quite different, but nonetheless concerning, so I need protection from those as well.

At 11:30 tomorrow morning, my dear "spiritual mom" Mary Ruth is coming over and my friend Julie is trying to be there and Dick is coming home and my best friend Susan will be on speaker phone. We are spending 15 minutes praying for protection and taking authority over cancer in the name of Jesus. If you happen to have a free few minutes tomorrow at 11:30, please pop over or join us wherever you are and lift up a prayer of proclamation that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. He WILL protect me.

The words THANK YOU ring hollow, as you cannot know how much your support and prayers have meant to me the past week. THANKS just doesn't say enough, but it is all I have to give you.

I will let you know how the first two days go.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

PLEASE PRAY AGAIN

There are too many of my Christian brothers and sisters in Christ reading this blog for me not to share with you the specifics of prayer needed right now.

My tumors are growing and multiplying. We were not prepared for this. The shortness of breath is due to one of the new tumors around the pulmonary artery and the bronchus.....this is not good, folks.

The chemo I have been on for 2 years, daily, is no longer effective. The cancer cells get smart and start adapting to it. It is clear that the metastases are aggressive, as I had a good PET scan June 1st. This all happened as I sat in a blueberry patch and filled my bucket this summer.

I will know more on Tuesday after another appointment with a radiation doctor to see if they think they can do any radiation on any of these lesions. For now, I am beginning a new chemo drug on Wednesday, one just off clinical trials. The side effects are potentially many. The ones that concern me are always nausea and vomiting and diarrhea because if I cannot eat or lose any weight, I am in a world of hurt. I no longer have an ounce more to lose. Fatigue is another, and this concerns me as well, as I want to keep working.

If they can do any radiation, it would be every day for weeks. This means an hour commute to Sioux Falls every day. That wears me out just thinking about it. But we'll know that on Tuesday.

My soul has taken a battering on this. I cannot even fathom that this is the beginning of the end. I know I must regain my footing for faith in healing. I have not heard from God that He is not going to heal me. His promises have not changed since Thursday morning. I have not heard from Him that this is my time to lay down the sword. So I need to get my faith back. It has taken a punch. 

But I have an amazing group of supporters around me who are standing in total faith with me, most of all Dick, who has been my rock and preacher, and Sam, who refuses to give up any hope that healing will happen. Cole, Susan, Mary Ruth, Sandy, Julie, Rachel.......THANK YOU. Please hold tight for me until I can get my gear back on. If we give up now, satan wins, and 4 years of faith will be for naught.

Satan does not want me healed. That I know. John 10:10 is clear that he is out to kill, steal and destroy my life. On Thursday when I told my best friend Susan the news, she went outside to her backyard to sit and pray for me, and when she prays, SHE PRAYS. Suddenly, a horde of wasps started attacking her (wasps do not attack without provocation). She started running for house and 3 of them even got into her house. She was badly stung 5 times. She said, "Mary, it felt like the devil himself....it was clear to me that he did NOT want me to pray for your healing." The devil wants to win this.

For those of you who pray for me, I ask you for two things right now: that I would expereince NO side effects from the new drug, and could continue to eat-----and that my heart and soul would find its way back to my Healer God, Jehovah Rapha. He gets NO glory from cancer, but He gets ALL the glory for healing me, and I still believe that is His will. Pray that I would FEEL again what I KNOW in my mind is true from Scripture.

Thank you in advance for approaching the Throne of God and interceding for me.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bad News

Friends,
I got bad news today from the CT scan. News we did not want to hear. I have no energy to write about any of it right now. I will when I can. Please just pray for me....for Dick, Sam and me.....that we can face what is ahead. Pray that our faith in healing is not damaged beyond repair. Thank you.