Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Chemo went fine today. Only one needle stick in the lab, but two in the infusion room. The first stick occluded immediately and when they took out the needle, it was a gusher. My nurse dryly says, "Mary, you don't want to look at this." The second vein they found on my outside forearm worked.

I had to share with you a very undeserved and special gift I received last night. Our long-time good friends Angie and Dennis B. (Angie was Sam's 3rd grade teacher and Dennis is a PT and colleague of Dick's) stopped by with their kids last night. I assumed it was just for a visit. Dennis sat down with an envelope in his hand. He told me that after his sister Rita died in 2005 (I remember asking Angie occasionally about Rita's condition over the course of her disease), his family and friends started a "Run For Rita" race every fall up in Sioux Falls. The proceeds from the participants' entry fees and corporate sponsors have been given every year to two or three individuals fighting cancer to offset medical and other costs.

Unbeknownst to me, I was chosen as one of the 2010 recipients. Dennis handed me the envelope "in honor of his amazing sister." I glanced inside and was reduced to tears. All I could see was a sea of hundred dollar bills.

How do you thank people for a gift like this? It feels like God's grace....undeserved, elaborate and free, given in love. So too this gift.

Rita's brother Tim, on the Run For Rita race website, says of his sister, "To make an analogy of how Rita lived and how those around her felt I think of a big motorboat. Most of us live life so that we are barely a ripple in a smooth lake. Rita was a big boat on the lake of life with her waves of love just washing over us continuously."

Rita Spyskma

I don't think of myself as a big boat, but to honor Rita's legacy, I will do my best to emulate her fighting spirit and her positive, caring attitude. And I know without a doubt that unless I can't stand up on my own two feet this coming fall, I will be participating in the Run For Rita, and pledging money to her foundation, paying it forward to other cancer journeyers.

To Dennis, the entire Bickett family and the Spyskma family, my gratitude is deep and humbling. The money will help so much with medical expenses. We promise to be good stewards of your generosity.

To add to the gift, after Dennis and Angie left last night (after Dick had sneaked our memory card out of our camera and gave it to them), Angie went to get prints made at Walmart and spent almost the entire night making me an incredible, beautiful Christmas scrapbook, delivered this morning by surprise once again, before I left for chemo. It is such an extravagant gift of your precious vacation time, Ang. I absolutely love it. For the myriad ways you have cared for me in the past 5 months, I have no words. Just know that you have painted splashes on joy on my path and are truly one of the treasures I have found in the darkness.

To read more about Rita and the Run For Rita, go to http://www.run4rita.org/. If you can join the race next fall, please do so!!

Thank you again for lifting me in prayer to Our Father, who is sovereign over all things and holds us all securely in His arms. He hears every prayer.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Merry after-Christmas to you all! I should probably say Happy New Year here and now because I will be "down for the count" on New Years Eve day in my chemo cocoon!!

Tomorrow is treatment 5. Back on steroids starting today, so I am ready for about 5 nights of little sleep. The week of side effects to come is still mentally disconnecting for me to choose.... I know why I do this, but it is still strange to choose to be sick to be well.

We had a wonderful Christmas in Fargo (after a tense drive up on Thursday afternoon in fog/snow/blowing snow/two tire tracks on one lane/40 mph for more than an hour). It was great to be with 2/3 of the family...the Duluth Hiebs were not there.

So, with Christmas memories fresh and warm, I head out in the morning for chemo, and know that I will be starting chemo-brain about Wednesday night or Thursday morning for about 4 days. Another strange thing .....this knowing ahead of time that my mind will not have any cognition for a few days.

Sam drove up to the cabin yesterday to see friends in northern Minnesota. He'll be back just in time to watch me "vegetate" for a few days. Lucky him.

My prayer requests would be that there would be no new unknown side effects from this round, that my appetite stays good, and that they can access a vein in one stick (PLEASE, GOD!!). My prayer for myself is still that God might be glorified in everything I say and do throughout this journey. The peace He has given me is beyond human understanding, and I am so grateful for it.

These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. This purity of faith is worth more than gold. 1 Peter 1:7

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


My blood counts were good again.....praise God for that. Sam went with me to chemo yesterday to have drug #4. It took a bit longer, as once again, they could not get into the first vein they tried, even after heating up the back of my hand. I worry that after all the needle sticks and the scar tissue building up in my veins, I won't have anything to work with very soon. I really don't want to have a port put in my chest.

I want to wish all of you a very holy and happy Christmas with family and friends. I have been so honored and humbled that you have followed my journey so far. I know it is hard staying interested in outcomes when the battle lasts such a long time, so for all of you still reading this and praying for me, my deepest thanks. Your support has meant the world to me. There are chapters yet to write, and I pray only that my Savior will be glorified through my challenges, and that His glory will be evidenced in my life.

Safe travels to you all over the weekend, and Merry Christmas.

Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:13

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I have spent the last 4 days thoroughly enjoying having my boy under the same roof again! We've been watching movies, football, old I Love Lucy DVD's, and playing family games.... I couldn't be happier that he doesn't have to go back for 3 weeks! Today he and I had our traditional cut-out cookie-making session, which is always fun. Not able to eat sugar any more, I hated not eating mouthfuls of sugar cookie dough, but I survived. Tomorrow we will get creative with the frosting and decorating.

I have my 5th blood draw tomorrow. Please pray that my blood counts are good, as they have been in the past. I believe without wavering that God has protected my immune cells with every treatment, and I know it is an answer to your prayers. As the chemo drips in me, I am always visualizing Christ's blood coursing through my veins and think of the old hymn, "There is Power in the Blood." And I know it is a little thing, but please pray that they can access a vein on the FIRST attempt, both tomorrow and Tuesday. It was a disaster last time with multiple sticks.

I have a drug #4 chemo treatment on Tuesday, and am prayerful that I will again not have any side effects from that one. Assuming the best, it means that I should have a great-feeling Christmas. The timing could not be better, as my next major chemo treatment is the Tuesday AFTER Christmas. Perfect!

Weather and health permitting, we will be driving up to Fargo for the holidays with Mom and Dad and the Fargo Hiebs. Last Christmas, I got the swine flu and the blizzard of '09 made travel on I-29 north impossible (even if I HAD been well), so we have learned not to make plans that are too firm!!

Thank you for your abundant prayers. I continue to believe in my healing and in God's provision for meeting all my needs until then.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.   John 15:8

He is the God who keeps every promise.   Psalm 146:6

Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved. Jeremiah 17:14

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I looked in the mirror closely this week and noticed some lines around my mouth that I have never given heed to before. I don't know what I would call them. Oral crow's feet? It makes me wonder if chemotherapy has in general made me look older. Perhaps the fine lines are simply the little valleys created in August and September where rivers of tears poured from my lachrymal glands, down my cheeks, and past my mouth. Maybe they will now be my battle scars, left to remind me of how my God has lifted me from the mire and set me upon His rock.

It has been hard in some ways to not be working. I do find myself in a season where I have turned inward and spend a chunk of my day reflecting, praying, and re-organizing my thoughts. While I certainly miss my co-workers, I am finding this time to be rich. I can't remember the last time in my life where I had months at a time set aside for soul assessment.

My dear friend Lee sent me a quote from a book called Captain Black's Flight to Heaven. It is about a plane crash survivor. In his recovery, and I so relate to all of this, he writes:

Up until then, I had always been a doer; now I was learning just to be. Not that I really had a choice in the matter. It was as if there had been an untimely frost and the seasons changed overnight. I went from the summertime of my life to the dead of winter without so much as a storm warning.

Someone once said, "In October, when the leaves fall, you can see deeper into the forest."  It's true. So much foliage had fallen from my branching ambitions, and as a result, I could see deeper into the forest that was my life. I didn't feel I needed to be doing anything--playing among the trees or gathering firewood or trying to find some way of making money out of the forest.  I could just be there and rest.  It was good.  It was part of my restoration.

Trees need the winter.  I never knew that before.  They need time to strengthen for the growth they experience in springtime.  All that green, pulpy growth has to harden, or the tree would not be able to withstand the seasonal winds that whip against it.

I had experienced a lot of growth.  Now was the time for the energy to be diverted from the branches to the roots.  The roots of my faith were going deeper.  Much of what was going on with me was going on underground, so to speak, beneath the surface, unseen. Growth can be a lonely place, but it is a necessary place.

And so my roots grow deeper, my faith grows sweeter, and the lines around my mouth......those little river valleys......are just part of my restoration.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Got in on the ground floor late yesterday and the el is going up to the top floor!! I can feel the ascension today and I think by tomorrow, the door will open to my old vistas again. The chemo brain lasted as long this time, but wasn't quite as deep a tunnel as previous treatments. I know this only because I was able to watch some TV. I can't read or think or converse or cook or do anything logical, but somehow, I was able to maintain some focus on mindless TV shows, which really helped the time pass.

My perspective about the tumors having not grown is much better. To those of you who spoke just the right words to me that helped me shift my mindset, I thank you. Richie and Sam, Julie, Chris, Mary Ruth, Mike, Becca, Rachel and Kay......you each gave me a nugget that my heart and soul needed to digest, and I am so grateful to you. Mike helped me understand that by virtue of the fact that the tumors haven't grown means that the cancer cells are weaker and more confused and are not replicating quickly anymore. That really is good news and I need to continue to spin it that way. Unwavering faith in healing has to continue to be my mantra and my mental/spiritual focus.

We are finally shoveled out from the blizzard. When we lived in Duluth, our street was plowed within a few hours of any storm, and sometimes, even before the storm was finished. In a state with no income taxes (read: less efficient public services), our tiny town of 10,000 is shut down for 24-48 hours before they plow your street. It frustrates us no end. We rarely get 5" snow storms, so we are hoping this qualifies as the "big one" for this winter.

Thank you so much for our prayers while I was out of commission. I felt every one, and it made a difference.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Before chemo-brain fog sets in tomorrow, I thought I would update everyone on today. I drove over to my appointment today hoping for and believing that the tumors would have shown some shrinkage. They have not. They have not grown, which is good, but they have not decreased. For the hip tumor, which cannot be re-radiated, this is particularily discouraging. In addition to that, my tiny veins did not do well all morning and they had to stick me 5 different times (I hate needles).

I must admit I had a pity party when I got home. D came home right away and we talked alot. The worst thing that could happen is that I lose my faith focus. I must believe that God's delays are not his denials. This I should know having endured nearly 7 years of infertility. Every month felt like another NO from God. It was not. It was a NOT YET.

I talked to my spiritual mentor and Wednesday prayer partner, MR tonight and she reminded me that I did not hear from God today. It was not His voice. She reminded me that until we hear His final word on the matter of my cancer, we continue to believe in a healing, in His time. We continue to stand on God's Word and His promises, which we are believing are His will. She reminded me that He has not spoken yet, and He is not done with me yet. I needed to hear those words tonight. 

So while part of my heart feels heavy, I will not stop trusting in the One who has ordered my days and has written ever-so-many promises about healing in His Word. This is my testing ground. When I can't see Him working or don't find a visible sign of His providence, I have to continue to believe.

My son texted me, "Mom you have to have UNWAVERING faith." And then he said on the phone to me, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Ah, so right. And so we finish out my last 2 treatments and then determine where to turn next.

I ask for your prayers that my trust in Scripture be unwavering, that my trust in God's plan for my life is perfect, that my trust in the process of fighting cancer is bearable. Thank you for lifting me and my family to the Father in prayer.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I had an energetic week freezing meals, decorating the house for the holidays, and going with my hubbie to the city to do our Christmas shopping. I had a tough few hours on Saturday night, however. A classic 1 Peter 5:8 moment (Be alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour). I was sitting enjoying the Christmas tree lights on and I suddenly felt myself being sucked into the devil's mindset and he pounced. All I could say through the tears that starting flowing was, "Statistically, this will be my last Christmas" and to Dick, "If I am not here next Christmas, will you please decorate cookies with Sam.....it's such a big tradition for the two of us."

Satan is so insidious in his attempts to discourage and create despair and hopelessness. He had me right where I have refused to go for months. Had a good long cry with my husband, and he prayed for me, and I was better in a couple hours. Fleeing from the devil could be a fulltime job, but I know He cannot stand in the face of God's Word.

I started up my steroids today as the first step to tomorrow's 4th chemo treatment. It is a big day, and not without apprehension. I am having my first CT scan to determine if the lung tumor has shrunk at all. From a purely scientific standpoint, I know I might be discouraged if it has not shrunk or increased in size; I need to keep in mind that God CREATED the field of science and is sovereign OVER it, and He still has the final say in all things. I also know after nearly 7 years of infertility that God's delays are not always God's denials.

The CT will be right before the chemo treatment and I have no idea when the results will come back. Usually a radiologist takes a day or two to read it, so I may not know anything tomorrow.

Please pray for tomorrow's medical agenda and that I could keep from being discouraged if the news is not great. I will continue to take God at His Word for my healing. Please pray that God would target the cancer cells with the chemo and that His hands would protect all healthy cells in my body. Please pray that as I go down into the side-effect tunnel on Wednesday it will not be any worse than it has been. Thank you so much for your faithfulness in praying for me.

3 JOHN 2....Beloved, I wish ABOVE ALL THINGS that you may prosper and BE IN HEALTH.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


If you are a Vikings fan, you will appreciate my son's (who is THE Minnesota Sports Guy) blog post from today.  http://minnesotasportsguy.com/2010/12/02/a-frightening-future/#comments  Seems llike we fans need to unite and fight!!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The nurse just called with my CBC results, and all looks great again. Thank you for praying! I feel so thankful to God for helping me choose the right chemo drugs that would keep my immune system in good working order while fighting the cancer cells. I am so happy that the white and red cells know exactly what they are supposed to be doing despite the barage of "poison" that is cruising around them every 3 weeks!!

I am starting today to cook up a storm of meals for the freezer to get us through the chemo-brain tunnel days of later next week. It sure takes the pressure off D every night knowing he doesn't have to come home and cook, though he would do so without complaint. Today was chow mein. 3 batches in the freezer, and one to eat tonight!

Thanks again for the prayers for my blood counts!! God is so good.

God has a designated time when His promises will be fulfilled and the prayers will be answered!  Jim Cymbala

Wherever you go, I will let you escape with your life.  Jeremiah 45:5

Saturday, November 27, 2010


We unabashedly love pie in our family. Not eating sugar is one of the hardest things about an anti-cancer diet (though I did cheat a bit on Thanksgiving and indulge in a piece). But when it comes to pumpkin pie, we only LIKE it. Traditional pumpkin is sort of ho-hum for us. So when I stumbled across this recipe, I decided to give it a whirl and see how the votes shake down. We all agreed. Better than traditional pumpkin pie. It has the same flavor, but it is lighter and creamier and took no time at all to make. If you are a pumpkin-LIKER instead of a pumpkin-LOVER, this might work for your family.


1 graham cracker crust (buy one, it's so much easier)
1 box (3 oz) vanilla pudding (COOK AND SERVE type, NOT instant)
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup cream
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cloves
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup additional cream OR 1 8-oz tub of Lite (or regular) Cool Whip

In medium saucepan, mix dry pudding mix with half-and-half and 1/2 cup cream. Add spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, til bubbly and thick. Remove from heat. Add pumpkin and stir to combine. Place lid on pot (cracked open a bit to let off steam) and set aside to cool. When cool enough, place pot in fridge to cool completely. When mixture is cool, remove from fridge. Depending on your dietary restrictions, there is a lower fat option here (#2). Option 1) Beat 1/2 cup cream with 1 T. brown sugar until stiff. Fold into pumpkin mixture. Option 2) Fold tub of Lite Cool Whip into pumpkin mixture. Pour into graham cracker crust. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Garnish with anything you want......lemon rind curls, graham cracker crumbs, coconut....

PRAYER REQUEST: That my blood counts this coming Tuesday are once again good so that chemo is not delayed for the following week. THANKS!

Friday, November 26, 2010


This life that we are living, standing on the holy Word of God about healing FOR my healing, is taking on an energy all its own. Dick and I are being blasted with this truth (God's intent to heal) from every angle. Every single devotional (I read 3 different ones each day) is writing about it. I come upon all kinds of new Scriptures about unwavering belief in what God can do. Friends send me articles from magazines that talk about the same thing.

Dick said to me the other night, "We need to start putting all of this stuff together in one place so that it is accessible to share with others."  He and I both have a strong feeling that God is, among other things, going to ask us to teach others in crisis how to live standing on God's promises. It brings me such joy to think that God would use us in this way and make something very sacred from something that originally filled us with such despair and hopelessness. I pray it is so!!

Here is just a sampling of what has been in our faces in the past 72 hours alone.....

Nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27

Do you believe I am able to do this? Matthew 9:28

Is anything too hard for the Lord? Genesis 18:14

We honor God by asking for great things when they are a part of His promises. We dishonor Him and cheat ourselves when we ask for molehills where He has promised mountains!!!    Vance Havner

When you take God at His Word, when you believe that absolutely nothing is impossible for Him, you'll be amazed at the things He can do. Trust that the Creator of the universe is capable of moving any mountain, including your own.  Journey with God Through Cancer

Absolutely nothing is impossible for the Lord. Your challenge, as a believer, is to take God at His Word and to expect miracles.  Journey with God Through Cancer

Friends, I have not asked for a molehill. I have not even ASKED for a mountain. He has promised a mountain and I simply am taking Him at His word, believe His word is His will, and believe it will come to pass in His timing.

We had wonderful Thanksgiving. We are usually visiting Dick's mom in North Dakota over this holiday, and we have not had just our family for a lazy Turkey Day in many years. We thoroughly enjoyed not being in a car, watching football, eating our dinner in our own time frame, and just hanging out together.

Today was a "balmy" 40 degrees so we took advantage and went out to chop down our Christmas tree. We found a balsam that we really liked, and the scent in the car coming home could make one drunk on pine. Is there anything better than freshly cut tree smell?

Tomorrow I will share a recipe with y'all that I tried (and we all loved) yesterday. It will become our "new tradition" for pie!! Have a great weekend, all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I am feeling tickled pink today with the ABSENCE of side effects----complete absence----from yesterday's drug #4 infusion. Not a flicker of nausea, fever, foggy brain or stomach upset. Which leads us to believe that my 13 days of stomach pain last cycle was probably just a new version of side effects from drugs #1-3. Dr. V had told me that each chemo round can be unique, and apparently that is what happened. I had blamed the difference on the addition of drug # 4, but I was wrong....

My bearded boy (no-shave November) is home as of 1:00 yesterday and we spent yesterday afternoon catching up, just the two of us. It was such a fun evening hearing my two guys ramble on about sports, just like they always have. I am a sports fan, but for some reason, my dear husband just does not discuss it with me like he does with Sam. I must be lacking a degree of sports IQ.....ya think????

As we head around the corner to tomorrow, let me express to you all my deep thanks for your prayers and support these past 3 months. I could not have walked the road without every one of you. Great gratitude for family and friends swirls around me tonight. I hope you have a wonderful family-filled holiday tomorrow, and I'll be back in touch soon.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Hello to all of you loving tunnel lurkers......

The tunnel was once again a tough place to be, but I am headed toward the light today and it feels reassuring and oh-so-good. (Think Chilean miners here: I am strapped in the steel cage and being pulled to the surface...) When I got up this morning, I was able to read parts of the paper and comprehend what I read! YES! When your cognition is temporarily gone, it is comforting to be reminded that it does return. There are certainly moments in the chemo-brain darkness that you wonder if you will be able to read or write again and for me, that is a horrifying thought!

Just as I am getting sure-footed again, I am off tomorrow for Drug #4 which will be given separately. I have no idea what the side-effects are for that drug alone, as we combined them last time. So I am praying that I will be able to manage them, and enjoy my boy who heads home tomorrow for a long Thanksgiving break. The interval may be too short to really get any good days this week, but I am hoping. It would be so nice to just be mom and not cancer-fighter this week. But.....I do what I need to do and let God continue His healing through modern medicine.

Julie, I SO LOVE "our new verse." I've probably stumbled upon it many times and never read anything into it until now. We'll just keep replacing your Dad's and my name in there and watch the power of Jesus' name at work!!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


All went well with round 3. I had nice conversations with 3 people in the infusion room. One lady told me her husband's whole cancer story, and my heart ached for him. He has been so sick. While I am getting at least one good week out of 3, he may only get 3 days. He was even sick while getting his meds yesterday. I should feel so fortunate.....and I do.....that I am not nauseated.

I've been on a steroid high for 2 days and have done all I could do to get ready for the low days. Laundry is done, food is bought, beds are changed......and I even did some other stuff like put up Christmas lights and clean out the storage room.....those steroids make you just manic! I got 80 minutes of sleep the first night, and 5 hours last night.

But tonight, just in the last hour, I am feeling the start of the chemo-brain effects, and know that I am going down in the tunnel for a few days. So......I'll see you all on the back side when I emerge. Thank you for praying that the chemo brain doesn't last any longer than it has in the past!!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Do you ever simply drop your jaw when God speaks to you? It never fails to amaze me when in certain cirumstances, I see a big "LOOK AT THIS, MARY. PAY ATTENTION" sign in my mind's eye and I know it is straight from the throne of God. The devotional for today that I just read has God's megaphone pointed from the pages to me. I have to share! I won't write out all of it due to length, but I will give you the nuggets from each paragraph.

The Bible contains over 7,000 promises from God. I must confess it disturbs me sometimes that so many Christians have a "ho-hum" attitude toward God's promises. Next time you go to a Christian book store, notice how many "Promise" books there are. Why is that? Because a growing number of believers have discovered that praying and standing on God's promises can give us hope! Psalm 119:49-51 says, "Remember your promise to me, for it is my only hope."  If you are going through a trial, meditating on faith-building promises can give you the strength and hope you need to keep going. Try praying promise-centered prayers instead of problem-centered prayers and I guarantee it will change your life.

This doesn't mean that you can always pray a promise once or twice and have it come to pass. That does happen sometimes. But most of the time we have to go through a period of "standing" on a promise before the answer comes. We sometimes have to persist in praying God's promises before they are fulfilled. Many times we give up before we receive an answer. Remember delays are not denials.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus "carries out and fulfills all of God's promises, no matter how many of them there are (2 Cor 1:20). God is serious about His promises, and He honors those who take them seriously. But don't just take my word for it. Start getting serious about taking God at His Word, and discover for yourself that He is the God who keep every promise!" (Ps 146:6)

YES! Feels like the Lord's confirmation of our standing on His promises for the healing of my cancer. A simple and powerful way to live with a health crisis. I hear God's whisper, "You are doing exactly what I want you to do. Take me at my Word, just like you are doing. Keep it up. I will not fail you."  AMEN!

Thinking alot about my family today. I feel washed in gratitude for every one of them. For so many things. Richie and Sam, you are my heart and soul, the reason I fight, and the reason I can experience joy in the midst of cancer. Mom and Dad, your never-ending love and faith carry me and bathe me in hope every day. No parent should have to hear a cancer diagnosis for their child, but you have handled it with such grace. Mike and Chris, as brothers, you go beyond description in the ways you care about me, and your belief that I was always strong enough to start and finish this journey helped bring me out of the darkness. Mabel, thank you for your frequent phone calls checking on me, your very generous gift, and the hours of loving prayer I know you are sending heavenward on my behalf. You are a special mom-in-law.

Mom, Mae and me

Mike and Betsy


Richie, Sam and me

Joyce and Ron, your standing in faith with us is like Godly cement. You have loved me with your cards, emails, calls and encourgement, and it has meant the world to me. Thank you for caring and supporting us so faithfully. Margie, your heart is bigger than your body and your giving generous spirit has touched me so deeply. I can't thank you enough for being here for me. You are the most selfless woman I know. ( My sis-in-heart literally gave me the shirt off her back and the pants off her legs when she was here!) 

 Rachel with Lucy and Asher

 Anna with Will and Tim

My family with Mabel, my mother-in-law

 Rachel, you are walking in the muck with me every second, understanding my emotions and upholding me with love in more ways than I deserve. I feel your prayers every day, girl! Thank you for always being on the other end of an email when I need you. Anna and Mae, you have both been so awesome about getting oncological answers for me when I need them and you both were tenderly-tough with "fightin' words" that I needed to hear early on. Mae, you were the one to rev up the "kick cancer's butt" train and forced me up in the engineer's seat when I needed it most. Nancy and Lowie, your words of hope and love have been fully absorbed and felt. Nancy, I still have my Goliath quote hanging up!

Me with 3 of "my girls"..... nieces Kate with baby Hendy, Betsy and Maddie

Mom and Dad with my family and Chris and Margie's family

Ron and Joyce (I could not find another pic of you and I know you will groan
when you see this one, but I couldn't leave you out. Send us a new pic of the two of you!)

Most of the Hieb extended family; my aunt Nancy on first step on right;
cousin Mae behind her

  Chris and Shirleen

Gretch, Kate, Bets....your emails are so sweet and full of love and always day brighteners. I know you are all praying for me, and that is the best thing you can do for me. To the rest of my family, unnamed here, but very vital links in my chain, I feel your prayers and I know your concern. I feel as though I am swimming in my family's love. I don't know how people walk through cancer without a family to lean on. I will never be able to give back to any of you what you have given me these past 3 months. You guys just rock. I love you all past the moon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


We've had a nice weekend with Sam and his friend Tyler. Tyler is a lake friend from Minnesota who goes to college in Minneapolis.....he came down to visit a friend in Orange City and then spent the weekend with us. We watched the movie TAKEN. If you haven't seen it and are up for an intense flick, it is very good.

Sam hurt his arm playing in a broomball tournament on Thursday, so we took him in for an x-ray on Saturday and sure enough, he has a hairline break of his radius. He has a splint for now, for 4-6 weeks, unless the orthopedist (who will review the x-ray tomorrow) says it needs to be cast. Last November he got his nose broken; this November, an arm. We hope it is not a trend!

I start my steroids in the morning to prep for Tuesday's chemo. I am more than ready to get it done and get my week of "chemo brain" over with before getting the new drug on the following Tuesday. The chemo is every 3 weeks, but this new drug (which I started last time) is every 4 weeks. Since the new drug is the one that I think was responsible for all my stomach problems, I may have 2 tough weeks this time, but one never knows how it will all shake down.

The only thing that really matters is that we are standing strong in the Word of God for complete and total healing, and are expecting it. God wants us to NOT WAVER in our belief of what He can and will do. He is SO able, and SO willing to heal, and His Word is sharper than a 2-edged sword (Heb 4:12). His Word has power. We stand with firmly planted feet on God's Word being His will, for His word is TRUTH (John 17:17).

I have such immense gratitude for my Wednesday prayer partners who stand firmly planted with us and do not vascillate one iota in faith for healing. There are plenty of people who are doubters around us. It doesn't disturb us in the least, for God has gifted us with this amazing ability to believe and trust at a level we never have before. It is exhiliarating!

My favorite verse this week is Psalm 103: 2-3.......Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases!

In the SAME sentence, the psalmist confirms that God forgives sin and heals diseases. There is not even a comma in that sentence! They are lumped in one category! So, if people can so readily believe and have total faith that God forgives them their sins when they repent, why can't people just as easily believe that he can and will heal their diseases? I love that those two acts are linked in this psalm!

We need to come to God for healing with the same expectancy that we come to him for forgiveness. Too many Christians have lost their ability to EXPECT miracles and EXPECT God's mighty power to work in their lives (in all kinds of circumstances). But that's where our spiritual backsides are sittin' and we're not movin'!!

Specific prayer requests for the week:

* That the chemo brain side effect would not last any longer than its usual 3-6 days, and that there would be no nausea so that I can eat well. (I am so grateful I have not lost any weight since starting chemo.....that is answered prayer.)

* That I might be able to encourage someone else in the infusion room. People are so separated that I haven't been given this opportunity yet, but I am hoping God will use me in this.

Thanks for your faithful prayers, which buoy me and comfort me. So many prayers have been answered, that I can't help but be completely humbled by you lifting me in prayer. Accept my thoughts for thanks because words are so inadequate.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


 I had to go outside and celebrate my good blood counts today with a couple of good leaf angels..... (I am hoping snow angel weather is a long ways off.)

My numbers were very good again and I praise God once again for protecting my healthy blood cells. I did worry about my immune system before I started chemo, and even discussed getting fractionated doses of the chemo to protect it. But Dr. V did not feel that those doses would do enough damage to the tumor, so with full doses, I wasn't sure how my body would respond. But God has answered the prayers of so many of you. He has kept my immune system safe and rebounding each time now. I feel blessed. We are all set for Round #3 next Tuesday.

He sent out His word and healed them, snatching them from the door of death. Psalm 107:20

Monday, November 8, 2010


As I continue to walk out this cancer journey standing on the promises of The Great Physician (in scripture) for healing, a recurrent possibility keep niggling in my mind.

Could God have allowed my cancer to spread to my pelvis to save my lung?

Now I realize that ONLY the people reading this who have a relationship with Jesus Christ and understand His mysterious ways will be able to entertain this possbility with me. The rest of you can go ahead and roll your eyes.

As I look back.......
The news that my lung cancer had spread to my bone was devastating to us. It felt like a death sentence. We were drowning in despair and sorrow. Before that news arrived, we and the oncologist presumed the tumor was contained and we were talking surgery. Because of the location of the lung tumor, a partial lung removal was iffy. It most likely would have been the removal of my left lung. Certainly people live with one lung, but life is compromised in many respects. When the metastasis was discovered, surgery was off the table completely, and we went to the radiation/chemo scenario.

But, now, as we have lived in the light of hope and belief in healing, I wonder about it all. If God knew that He was going to heal me, and he knew that a contained tumor would have taken my lung, could He have allowed it to spread just enough that my lung would remain intact and be healed? I wonder. I really wonder. And I won't know the answer for some time, but it makes me ponder His ways, which always stymie man's ways.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  Is 55:8-9

My gastro-intestinal woes have continued, though today, for the first time since my chemo 13 days ago, has not been too bad. My gut is not churning too much today. I am grateful. I hope this means it is ending. It would be nice to feel as though it was resolving itself before another assault of the chemo drugs.

I worked for a couple hours at the nursing home today and delighted in being able to hug a bunch of residents. I gave massages, and wheelchair rides outside, and played piano in the lounge (does the fact that most of the residents fell asleep to my tunes mean I am losing my touch??:)

Tomorrow I get my blood levels taken. A specific prayer request would be that once again, the levels would be acceptable and that my body's immune system is ready for round #3. Thanks so much for your treasured prayers!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


It is always good to face a weekend with D home! Yesterday, Sam's birthday, was bittersweet. 'Twas another one of those "firsts,".....not being able to celebrate your child's birthday with them. I know the day should not make a difference, and that he will be home to celebrate it with his birthday dinner tomorrow, but the day held a brand of emptiness anyway. It will be fun to have our traditional viewing of his birth day video. My favorite moment is when they wrap Sam up and lay him in his dad's arms for the first time. Still gives me goosebumps.

My gut is still very off. I feel as though the intestinal lining of my stomach has changed quite a bit. Food and drink does not seem to be absorbed readily. Everything is sloshing around in there and making noises to high heaven. I will have to talk to my oncologist about this next week and see if it could be related to the new drug they added, or if it could just be a latent side effect of the original chemo cocktail. It is not keeping me from eating, for which I am very grateful, but I do look several months pregnant by the end of the day.

I am going back to work at the nursing home for a couple of hours on Monday when they are going to be short-staffed. I am excited! I have missed my old folks! One of my assignments is to go up to the Alzheimer's wing; and I am going to bring all my "old-time" music and play the piano for them and have a singalong. It will be good for me to be back in a giving mode, even if just for a couple of hours. Thanks, Julie, for needing me!!

For you have delivered me from death, and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of LIFE.   Psalm 56:13

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


My chemo brain lifted yesterday morning so I could go to the polls and make some judicious decisions in voting. If it hadn't, I would not have trusted myself to fill in the right circles!! I am still battling side effects in my gut. Upset stomach, bordering on nausea, and a churning feeling....almost like a couple of snakes circling around inside me. Very strange, and not pleasant. I am hoping this goes away so that I might have a good week before the next round. I would hate to add treatment #3 to my body feeling like this. I haven't been sleeping more than 3-4 hours per night. Don't know why. The steroids should be worn off by now. I've read a 500+ page book in 2 nights.

Sam is coming home on Saturday evening for his birthday dinner. He now considers sleeping in his own bed a real luxury after dorm bunks! I feel so blessed that he is close enough to do these occasional overnights. Sam being at Dordt is such a God-thing, such a testimony to God providing for His children and orchestrating circumstances when we are all clueless about the larger picture that only He sees.

Sam never even wanted to visit Dordt. I kept saying, "Let's just use it as a baseline to measure your first and second and third choices against. It is close, and we can use it as sort of a control group." Even on the drive over that September day of his junior year, he said, "Mom, I really don't know why we are going here. I do not want to go to college in IOWA. Not in a small town in the cornfields of Iowa. Not gonna happen."

We went, we did the tour. On the drive home, Sam said, "Well, I like the work-study options with the sports director, and I like the cafeteria, it's a Christian college, and I like that the campus is not spread out. It's not all bad. We can keep it on the list for now. We'll see." 

A month later, we toured his first and second choices in colleges. Both 5 hours away in Minneapolis. His first choice has a great program in his career field, is on a wooded peninsula surrounded by a beautiful lake, and he knew 4 friends who would be going there. We thought it was a slam dunk and he'd be headed to the Cities. But on the drive home, he said, "You know, I think I like Dordt better." WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY?

Fast forward a year. He has no desire to visit any other colleges or universities, anywhere. Sam solidified his choice as Dordt, even as we played devil's advocate to learn exactly why he was drawn to "the Iowa cornfield." He would always come back to the work-study options (even though there was no guarantee there) and the small campus, but it was always somewhat vague. He "just knew" (read: Holy Spirit working). He applied, got an academic scholarship, and was accepted.

Fast forward 11 months. I am handed a cancer diagnosis and facing my only child leaving home all in the same week. Where was God? He had been wooing Sam to Dordt for 2 years! From the moment we set out to visit the college that fall day 2 years ago, God was orchestrating Sam's mind and soul to be bent toward this place. God knew before time began that I would have cancer. He knew that I would need Sam and that he would need me. God knew that he wanted a Christian college. He knew that Sam would need a campus where freshman could have cars (both Minneapolis schools prohibit cars for freshman and we would not have seen him til Thanksgiving or Christmas). God knew that a big tug on Sam's heartstrings would be the opportunity to work in Sports Information and be able to broadcast games on webcasts. God set that before him at Dordt. Providence is amazing, isn't it?

He is loving his college, getting a challenging, first-class, Christian-world-view education, with a large bevy of great new friends, a work-study job where he is being paid to do the thing he loves most to do, and has a little used Toyota Camry to bring him home to a mom who needs her fixes of his hugs now and again.

The entire story still gives me goosebumps. For two years, God has been putting in place the pieces of this cancer journey for me. He has been sovereign over every second. He has been working for two years gently pulling my only child to a college only an hour and a half from our front door (a college he never had ANY intention of liking), knowing that Sam needed to be close to home for such a time as this. 

That the creator of the universe cares enough about this lowly sinner that He would make a way 2 years ago for her precious son to be able to bee-bop home for his birthday dinner.......well, that kind of care and provision simply humbles me to tears.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

Monday, November 1, 2010


Well, the skid down into the tunnel has stopped and the car has been turned around. Now I just need a few days to drive out of it!

I wish I could adequately express the chemo brain phenomenon to you. I had read about it prior to the first treatment, and my cancer-survivor friend Darrell had told me sort of what to expect, but until you actually have it and live inside of it, adjectives pale in its description.

At least in MY experience, you live in a bubble. Your senses seem impaired. You seem to not be able to focus on anything at all. I can't read, listen to TV (let alone watch it), think, process (to do a crossword puzzle or such), focus on any task. Conversation is almost painful. The world is happening around you and you are there, but you aren't there! And then when you put my resting heart rate of 90 bpm (for 5 straight days) into the mix, the sleep deprivation, the fever I got from the new drug, and just generally worse gut upset, I found myself wanting only to curl up on my bed in the dark.

Yesterday when I woke up, I could tell that I had plateaued and that I was ready to let my body start fighting the turn-around. Today is still not a good day.....my gut feels metallic sort of......and I probably won't answer the phone again today (talking takes too much mental energy).....but I know I am crawling upward. FINALLY! The side effects hit a day earlier and have lasted 2 days longer so far in this round. But, if I can feel myself by Thursday or Friday this week, then I have 10 good days before round three.

I am so grateful to my mom and sis-in-heart who came to be with me when my hubbie left town. It is painful to watch someone deal with all this, and I know they felt that, but they were troopers, and left me to "be" whatever I needed to be and that took pressure off to try to "act well" when I truly didn't feel it.

So thank you all for the prayers this week. Continue to pray that I can feel back to normal this week so that by Saturday, when Sam comes home for his birthday overnight, he can find his "real mom!!"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I have entered the dark days a day earlier than last treatment. Tonight I'm feeling very yecky in the gut, and a low-grade fever, diminished appetite and sleep deprivation are all working overtime tonight to get my spirits down. I am trying to remember that last treatment, I came out of the cave on day 6, but knowing that doesn't help me right now. I have to walk through the fire of these side effects until they are spent.

I am quite sure I will not be blogging in the next few days. I am having a hard time even praying for myself right now, so I am trusting in my many prayer warriors to stand in the gap for me right now until my fighting spirit gets its footing once again. Thanks.

PS. Kirn, happy birthday!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Round two went off without a hitch. Well, that's not technically true. The med tech tried two different times to hit a vein for my blood draw and she didn't know what she was doing. Thankfully, she called on a "higher-up" who got it right away. For someone who hates needles, it was not a pleasant 10 minutes. But the infusion went well. SO FAR, and we are only 8 hours out, the new drug is not wreaking any havoc. The 3 hours of infusion was probably the most relaxed I've been all week. A warmed blanket, my Scriptures to read, my MP3 player with soft music.....hmmmmm.

My little corner by the fireplace

My uber-nice infusion nurse, Nancy

The fireplace next to my chair

My oncologist mentioned how much she liked my "She's A Fighter" shirt twice during my time with her. She even wanted to know the brand!! (Thanks again, Peg)

I got a whole 3 hours of sleep on my steroids last night, and tonight will most likely be worse than that. I may have to spring-clean the basement all night for something to do! No, it did not get done in the spring.

Last treatment, my tough days were 3-5. We'll see if that is true again or if it really is not a pattern after all. Maybe each treatment is different.

D drove over after teaching his 3-hour class today.....thanks to my friend Lynette who gave me a ride over, and it worked out that she had errands to do there anyway. D and I decided that after 2 trial runs where I have had him with me, we both think I can go it alone in the future. I am neither sick nor drowsy after chemo, so there is really no reason for him to go with me and spend 4 hours sitting in chairs (which he will lovingly do again if I want him to). But I say, I can do this! I am woman, hear me roar!

OK, so I am generally not a person who opens up her Bible believing that what you open to is what God has for you that day. I know people who do believe this. But today, just before Lynette picked me up, I grabbed my Bible and opened it and it fell to Jeremiah 46. I am thinking, oh, maybe not. But then my eyes dropped on these verses and they were amazing for today's chemo preparation. Another wonderful healing Scripture for me!

Prepare your shields, both large and small,
Harness the horses, mount the steeds,
Take your positions with helmets on!
Polish your spears,
Put on your armor!
What do I see?
They (I insert cancer cells) are terrified!
They are retreating,
They are defeated.
They flee in haste without looking back
and there is terror on every side!

Why will your warriors (cancer cells) be laid low?
They cannot stand, for the Lord will push them down.
They will stumble repeatedly; they will fall over each other.

v 3-5,15

It was so powerful and I used that visualization while I closed my eyes in my chair. I unwaveringly believe that God is doing just that.....defeating those cells, pushing them down, making them retreat.

Boatloads of thanks for all the prayers today. I viscerally feel the protection of God while I sit in infusion and it is because of all of you lifting me up.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I took my first dose of steroids this morning in prep for tomorrow's chemo, and already, after 1/2 hour, my cheeks are reddened and puffy. I should look great by tonight :)

So....this is a housekeeping detail, but one I wanted to include here. SO many of you have told me that you have wanted to comment on my blog but have not been able to. I even tried it myself on the library's computer to see if I could do it and could not. My niece Rachel solved the problem by telling me I had to change a blog setting to enable "anonymous"  people (people who don't have blogs themselves or people who don't have a gmail email) to leave comments.

I changed that setting and now it works! So, you need to click on comments at the end of my posting, and scroll down to the comment box. Where it says choose a profile you want to scroll down to ANONYMOUS. This means that if you want me to know who you are, please sign your name at the end of your comment. After you write your comment, click on post comment. A series of letters will come up that you will have to write in a box, then click on post comment again. It's easy now that the blog author knows what she is doing!!

If you have a gmail email address, you can choose the Google profile, and they will ask you for your user name and password. Ignore the other profiles!

Look what the cat dragged in Saturday night....

It was so great seeing Sam. He came home after commentating his first Dordt College hockey game on Saturday afternoon. We listened on the webcast and he did a great job. Soon he will start broadcasting the JV basketball games. He went back after an early dinner in order to watch the Vikes game with a bunch of his buddies who are all Packer fans. Would have loved to have been a mouse in THAT corner!

Speaking of eating earlier yesterday, friends Jeanne and Duane brought us such a delicious dinner last night. Cajun chicken and pasta and a bowl of fresh steamed veggies (at least 5 different veggies). We have enough for at least 1 and maybe 2 more meals this week, which is such a blessing when I won't feel much like cooking. Jeanne and Duane, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It was great!!

Specific prayer requests for Round #2 of chemo:

1) That the new drug they are adding to the chemo cocktail would not present any of the side effects that it can cause (fever, chills, headaches, jaw necrosis).

2) That once again, God would protect my healthy cells from the toxicity and that He would target the drugs onto the cancer cells.

3) That with my 3/4 dose of steroids, I would feel a bit less jittery, that I might get a couple hours of sleep each night (at least) and that the steroid crashing on days 3 and 4 would be lessened.

4) That nausea could be controlled with my 2 anti-nausea drugs.

5) That God might use me to encourage someone else in the infusion room tomorrow.

6) That Mom and Margie would have a safe trip to Vermillion on Friday.

Thank you so much in advance for lifting me in prayer as we head into round two. I am so humbled by so many praying. We will be 1/3 done with chemo treatments by 2:00 tomrrow!! I do not have any fear of the unknown anymore, which is nice. Unless I react differently this time or react to the new drug, I pretty much know what to expect and when. I feel so bathed in love and prayer.....to say thanks is so inadequate.

Let the weak say, "I am strong."   Joel 3:10

Friday, October 22, 2010


In an email yesterday, a friend of mine made a comment about the fact that my cancer diagnosis has made me more dependent upon God rather than made me mad at God. I'm glad she brought up the subject because it has given me pause to collect my thoughts on that matter; and I am "answering" her in this blog post.

From the moment I was told I had metastatic lung cancer, it is true, I have never been mad at God. I have felt broken, profoundly sad, and devastated, but I have never been angry with God. How can I be angry at my Creator when He didn't cause the cancer?

I think there are many different theological paradigms that one might consider in times of trial/crisis/tragedy. Mine is quite simple, actually. I know that God NEVER causes His children pain or suffering of any sort, and I believe that there are sound reasons why He does not prevent those trials from happening.

A father does not inflict pain upon his children. Our Heavenly Father is incapable of hurting us. His character is defined by love and grace and mercy and undeserved forgiveness. He loves us infinitely more than we can ever imagine. Suffering is not of God. Never. So to be mad at God for something he loathes right along with us is absurd. God is deeply moved by our pain, as any father would be. He despises satan for the broken world we now live in. So what I know to be true is that the God I love and serve HATES this cancer inside of me and is grieved that I have felt this pain.

Which leads to the next question......so why, if God loves me so much, didn't He prevent this from happening when He has the power to do so? Again, my understanding and my belief is this: God has 2 reasons why he does not prevent a trial.

One, God sees that the trial is exactly where He wants us to "be" to fulfill His purposes. Or two, God has every intention of bringing us through the trial, once we have learned the life lessons that He has laid out for us on the table of suffering.

In my case, then, 1) God did not prevent my cancer because my purpose in this earthly life has been completed, and the days ordained for me have come to an end. OR, (and this is what I have unwavering faith in) 2) God has every intention of healing me of cancer once I have learned what He wants me to learn from this trial.

I have already begun to plumb the depths of what God has hidden for me in the dark cavern of cancer. I already have seen profound changes in myself regarding sensitivity and concern for others, life goals, exponentially-increased levels of devotion to and love for my husband and son and entire family, forgiveness, persistent prayer and Bible study, patience, what is really important in life, the empty nest, what friendships are authentic and which aren't, and gratitude for the magic of an ordinary day. It is staggering to realize how many of these life-lessons lie in the throes of suffering. Life will never be the same, nor would I want it to be. There have been far too many changes in my heart and soul that are positive for me to want to wish this trial away.

Do I wish I did not have cancer? Yes. But do I appreciate all that it is pouring into my life from God's hand because of cancer? Oh, yes.

And so I wake each morning, not angry at my Savior, but praising Him for another day, for awakening my ears and eyes and heart and soul to truths He wants me to learn, and for keeping me on the path to find every treasure, every jewel He has hidden for me in the darkness.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Hab 3:17-18