Monday, August 30, 2010


I am beginning to understand that processing the grief of a metastatic cancer diagnosis is not a logical and fluid event. It is a roller coaster of the worst kind, with the lows very low. We need to give ourselves the grace to feel what we feel, and that is hard. We want to get beyond the intense sorrow, but it still finds us and lays us flat.

On Saturday, God answered prayers for normalcy, as I had about 7-8 hours of no anxiety and moving about my day doing Saturday types of things with D. I was so grateful for the respite from fear. Sunday was hard. S came home and much as we tried to ignore it, the big white elephant was in the room with us and cast a shadow. After he left, D and I just grieved for the fact that our family dynamic will never be the same. I want to be S's "real mom" again, not the mom that cannot smile and cannot joke and cannot be the family manager of events and fun. Oh, yes, we ached after he left.

On a medical front, the Mayo Clinic (they may be well-known, but they suck at getting answers to you in a timely way) will not have the last lab results for 14 more days now. I was crushed at this news. We will be meeting with an radiation oncologist on Wednesday to get his opinion on that avenue.

My dear aunt, Nancy, sent me a quote she saw on a church marquee, on a street she says she never goes down. I wrote it out in poster size and taped it to my dining room hutch.

With the help of God, Goliath was slain with only one small stone.

My Goliath hovers, but I say this sentence to myself every time I walk by it. God can do anything. He knows remission, and He has granted it to many people. I pray that my life will glorify Him whether or not He grants me the mercy of remission.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I sought the Lord and he answered me and freed me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

For three hours this afternoon, I did not cry and I did not feel that ugly fear that has made its nest in my soul. 3 hours. I was actually able to breathe, have some perspective, and think positively about outcomes rather than entertain the worst-case scenario visions that have fed off my fear.

I was born with an over-active fear gene. When I was little, I'd nervously ask my dad if he was sure he knew the way home from my grandparents' home where we would go for Sunday dinner. I was once terrified that my parents had lost all their money when we were at a carnival and they felt they were being ripped off. Fear has trailed me my entire life, and now, when I most need it to be squelched, it has reared its ugly head and settled inside of me as surely as this cancer has. I hate it. It makes me unable to eat. Unable to sleep.

I have been crying out to the Lord about my fears and I know He hears me. I do not have the emotional strength to do this on my own right now. I need God's gentle hand to reach down and remove it. Oh, how I know Satan loves it when he entices me to feel the terror of cancer.

I had three hours today. I will continue to praise God for those 3 hours of feeling like Mary again. She has been wandering in a fog of emotional pain for 15 days, and I miss her. I miss her laughter and her ability to care about others. I deeply miss her. Oh, Lord, find her and bring her back.

If specific prayer requests make sense (they always do for me) for you, then pray that I could mute the fears that fog my world right now. Thank you for praying this morning for me......God answered those prayers with 3 special hours and I am hanging on to the normalcy of those 180 minutes, even as they already seem like a distant memory.

My sweet friend Robin not only brought a wonderful dinner over tonight, but spent time with me this morning encouraging me. As a professional counselor, she really felt that Dick and I needed to get into counseling to deal with all this and she is SO right. We will do that this week.

I can't even begin to thank you all for your loving support. This will be a long journey, and one that has even barely begun, so I hope that you can stick in there with us. We need you all.


The past 12 hours have been especially riddled with fear and worry and panic. I know none of those emotions changes my cancer, but they have taken on a life of their own and I am feeling assailed by fear right now. Please pray with me that I could feel God's peace inside of me, and that I could shed this terrible weight on my chest.

I know that I need to surrender the outcome to God. I have to do that. The end result of this disease is out of my hands. Not that I am not going to fight this. But God alone knows the end result. If I could just surrender to that fact, and FEEL its release, I think that the fears would abate.

So if you are a prayin' type person, please ask God today to remove the heaviness and all the worry and the waves of panic that are coating every cell in my body. I know God hears the pleas of His people.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Spent 2 hours in Sioux Falls yesterday morning getting a hip MRI. They needed to tape my toes inward and waves of pain just shot up my legs the entire 2 hours of the test. This test was to re-verify that the cancer is, indeed, on the hip, which they already knew from the PET scan, but I am beyond questioning the testing. I laid there and prayed that God might decide to change the hip cancer to simple arthritis and I envisioned all the doctors being stunned that it had miraculously disappeared overnight. Ah, well, it kept my mind busy, and for a while I was not obsessed with thinking about negative outcomes.....something I am trying very hard to work on today. I need to envision remission, and nothing less.

We are waiting on the results of yesterday's tests and one more set of biopsy stains from Mayo. At this point, they will make recommendations for treatment and then we will probably get a 2nd opinion to give us some confidence in what we choose.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law from Kansas City stopped by last night and stayed with us on their way home from a west coast trip. My sister-in-law reminded me that you can only take a day at a time. My whole life has battled that idiom. I am a planner and organzier and a think-aheader. How, now, do I reverse that? I have to think about ONLY today.

My sister Margie (well, technically she is married to my brother, so one could add the in-law to her moniker, but since she is my sister in every way, I refuse that) and my niece Rachel have risen up to take command of my battle. They are in my face and dragging me to the battle lines with orders about food, rest, psyche, visualizations.....and a whole bunch of other mental artillery. If any two women can pull me out of my emotional funk and send me into battle, they will. And I love them for it.

When I opened my Bible last night, my eyes fell on 4 words from the book of Amos (verse 5:4)....SEEK ME AND LIVE.  I just sat and stared at it. It spoke to my heart last night.

Please pray for my mind to find its fighting spirit and that we would find discernment in our treatment decisions.  The outpouring of support and love has fed our souls. Thank you so much.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


The past 48 hours have been painful and sorrowful beyond words. I think God wraps us in a coccoon in order that we can actually survive hard news like this. I am not sure when the fog will lift, but today, there have been slivers of light penetrating the fog, where a little bit of FIGHT in me peeks out. It is quickly obliterated by waves of fear and sadness, but at least for a few minutes at a time, I feel I may someday reach acceptance. If I don't get there, I can't fight, and as my brother Chris told me, I have to fight for all those who love me, and he is right.

My niece Rachel tells me that God has not stopped writing the story of my life and that I should stop grabbing the pen out of His hand. I've been doing that alot lately. My niece Anna, who works in oncology, says that a cancer diagnosis is like getting dropped into the land of OZ. You have NO idea where you are, where to go, how to go, who to follow or trust......oh, how right that is. I am in OZ. And oh, yes, how I wish I could wake up at the end of the journey and see that this was all a bad dream.

But my God does not make mistakes. And I need to pull strength out of my wounded soul and stop longing for my future, and choose to do whatever I can to fight. I need to believe that miracles can happen and healing can happen. Neither may happen, but if I don't try, I will not be giving God a chance to show Himself through me.

Your prayers have allowed Dick and me to survive the past 2 days. Nothing less. God is so good. We are still standing. Continue to pray that I could get food down and have an appetite, and that we make the right decisions about treatment, and that whatever FIGHT I have inside of me will emerge soon through the fog.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


My cancer has spread to my hip. The hope to have it contained and thus, operable, is gone. That is all I can write today. Please pray for our hearts and for strength to carry forward.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Waiting. And more waiting. And trying to dodge the negative images that attempt to have their way in my mind. Waiting in a home far too quiet and empty of teenage-boyhood magnifies the waves of fear that wash over me. I so realize today that I am still very much in the first stage of grief here. Having taught death/dying/grief for over 30 years, I have a fair intellectual knowledge of the process. But when you are thrust inside of it, any perspective about it is gone. This first stage of numbness and shock is still very alive. I have cried a pond full of tears, with a seemingly endless amount in storage ready to burst forth at any moment.

I long for a sense of peace again, even if it means peace about the worst report. I need to grab hold of the faith that I know I have inside of me and FEEL it. But I know that that does not appear easily to most people in these first days, and it is true for me.

Tomorrow we will hear test results.

In the 1950's, I believe, there were several well-known missionaries killed in Africa, one of them being Jim Eliot, another Nate Saint. Nate's son Steve not only survived his father's death, but later, the very sudden and tragic death of his teenage daughter. His words about his daughter's death are haunting me today. It is the place I need to get to....the emotional place that I seek to embrace.

If God is all powerful and all knowing, none of this is happening without His knowledge and permission. This had to tbe the part of the story God was writing with our lives. It was an excruciating chapter in our story, but I suddenly found I believed that this terrible trauma would eventaully and mysteriously prove to be a cornerstone of God's plan for our lives. If I asked God to change things and He gave in to me, how would my change alter the rest of the plan? I did not want to ask God for what I desperately wanted in the short run, only to find it had cost us what God wanted for us in the long run........and ask Him to give us the courage to accept it until we see why He wanted it this way.

I am praying tonight that I can accept with grace what God wants for my life in the long run, no matter how painful that may be.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I have wanted to update daily, but today it will not happen. It was just one of those deeply profound, intense days that are too sacred to share. I would not have the words
if I could. It will remain a day that D and I will hold between us for the rest of our lives and know that no other human being could understand its depth or meaning.

Friday, August 20, 2010


We are back from SF after the PET scan. I made it. The tech was very sensitive to my "tunnel anxiety," but each end was open so that helped greatly, plus she put a big fan at one end shooting cool air over me for the whole test, so I did fine. She piped some Christian music into the scanning room, so I really was able to just breathe deeply and relax.

Now is the wait. You know how you oftentimes just casually say, "Oh, that was the longest day of my life!" ????? Well, I will never use that phrase again. Because I know what "the longest days" really will be. The next 2 1/2 days waiting for the final test results about whether or not the cancer has metastaticized to other body parts. We will know late Monday afternoon after yet another set of pulmonary tests that I know nothing about.

We are hoping for a "normal"  (in our case, "new normal") night with Sam with his favorite food and we'll probably watch the Twins together before packing up the cars. We leave for his college early tomorrow morning. The goodbye will be hard. But he is ready for this exciting new journey. Pray for him, that he could focus in spite of all his worry about me.

I can't begin to thank so many of you who have been dropping by to hug me and cry with me, sending emails and cards, praying for me, calling,and offering meals. I am overwhelmed by all the love I feel here at home and from far-away  family and friends during this scary time. My mother raised me to write proper thank you notes, and I hope to get to them some day, but for right now, plese know that I treasure the support like never before in my life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I have one son. But pressed into my heart are 6 "daughters." My girls.

Annie---my first, my goofy twin....God forgive me for the blatant lies of omission when people would tell me how cute "my daughter" was in the stroller, and I would just smile and say, "Thanks." Your words to "keep have to believe", working in the oncology field as you do, were vital. You see the successes and you make me believe that the newest protocols have merit. I love you not just for sharing medical resources, but for just being my goofy twin and shedding rays of light in our darkness. I know just how our hugs feel and how deep our love goes, so the miles don't matter.

Rach---I believe we are from the same embryo, split and born 25 years apart. We are rings around the same moon. We have travelled so many of the same emotional paths. We just "get" each other's fears and anxieties. You were the first to tell me FIGHT LIKE HELL, the first to remind me that NONE OF US is guaranteed tomorrow and that we need to live and love as if we were dying all the time. You were the first to tell me to get a hold of the fear or it will get a hold of me. You are my niece-shrink and my what-if basher. I love you for your unrelenting war against this in prayer, your "mandates" to me and your irreplaceable in-my-face support.

K-K-K Katie, Beautiful Katie---I know your heart aches with me....I feel it in every word you write. I wish, too, we could be closer. I love your advice about oncologist told me exactly the same thing. I am so sorry I missed seeing baby Hendy. I could just eat him up. I'm so happy you were there for D. I love you for all the sadness you are feeling about this, for all the endearments you write, for being mad, and especially for just being who you are. You are just so so special to my heart.

Gretch---When I hugged you and your "baby bump" goodbye last weekend, I wanted nothing more than to promise you that I will be here to see our newest Hieb addition and have years to love him or her up. We need no words to tell each other how we feel, do we? Your heart is so large and so transparent, and I know that your prayers are flowing for me. I'm not sure your law degree can help me much right now, but I am your PERFECT guinea pig to practice on for your next degree!!! You are so beautiful inside and out and I love you bunches.

Bets---the sweetest and gentlest woman I know. I feel all of the peace, beauty, lightness and courage you are sending me across the plains. I laughed SO hard at your "this is BS!" told in your frank, Hieb voice. Your words, "You are the kind of auntie that puts ice cream in oatmeal and those types of aunties are too sweet for sorrow," made me weep and be filled with joy that you are in my life. You have stepped out of your own dim places, sweetie, and you are my heroine. If you can, I can. I love you.

Madds---Sorry we missed the chance to see each other last weekend...your mom and dad told me how much you wanted to come and see me and I totally understand. I so feel your love and prayers and know that you are right here with me in spirit and concern. Every goal you score this season will give me more incentive to fight this insidious disease. I love you lots.

You are all such incredible women and I am so blessed that you all have rallied around me in this fight. And I will fight (or Rachel will drive to SD and kick my sorry butt). Anna, Kate, Rach and Gretchen, I want to be around to love on all my precious great nieces and nephews. Betsy and Maddie, I want to be around to see you both walk down the aisle someday, crying along with all the other weepy Hiebs (we are a pathetic bunch, aren't we?.....any one of the 15 of us starts the waterworks, and 14 others go down like dominoes).

Thank you, my sweet sweet girls, for your loads of support and encouragement. God willing, you will all get the opportunity to push me around in a wheelchair when I'm as old as Nanny! I love you all far past the moon, to infinity and beyond.

Auntie Em


By tomorrow night, I am quite certain that I will be so full of radioactive dye that I would set off any metal detector in any airport in the world. I made it through the brain scan, and am so relieved. I had high anxiety going in, knowing I had to be in a steel "helmet," and with my only phobia being enclosed spaces, I really worried. A huge blessing was that it was a sit-down machine and my body was not enclosed in the front, so they leaned me back, put on HGTV, and went at it. Tomorrow we do step 4.....the PET scan....she said to expect about 2 1/2 hours on that one.

On the drive home, I had an epiphany moment. I said to D, "You know, I have been dreading our new empty nest, knowing how much I will miss S and wondering how to find my "new identity" now that I am not going to be a full-time mother anymore. But today, I would give everything to know that I will HAVE that empty nest. I just want to live to relish sitting in that nest!!"  So many perspectives changes. So many.

Last spring I bought Randy Alcorn's new, thick, profound book called IF GOD IS GOOD: FAITH IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING. Why was I so drawn to it? I got halfway through it this summer, but picked it up again last night. And I stopped and read this paragraph 3 times.

     God uses suffering to purge sin from our lives, strengthen our commitment to him, force us to depend on his grace, bind us together with other believers, produce discernment, foster sensitivity, discipline our minds, impart wisdom, stretch our hope, cause us to know Christ better, make us long for truth, lead us to repentance, teach us to give thanks in times of sorrow, increase our faith, and strengthen our character. And once he accomplishes such great things, often we can see that our suffering has been worth it.

I don't believe God formed this tumor and shoved it inside my lung, but clearly he allowed it to be born and grow. And if this is what He needs to use to produce any or all of the above......all of which I need to be strengthened in.....then He is getting my attention.

Lord, help me not to waste any of this pain and fear. Use it to refine me, draw me and others to yourself, and let it all be for your glory.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


They just set up the brain MRI for tomorrow at 10:30. I wish I had a stash of valium
somewhere. It is entirely possible that they may not see cancer in the brain, but they may well find various and sundry other abnormalities which would explain forgetfulness, type-A-ness, over-emotionalism.......

I am so grateful for so many medical personnel working together to get these tests done in a timely manner. It is as if they know how desperate the feelings are to get to the answers.


When your pastor "just happens" to show up your doorstep in your family's darkest hour and sits with you while you weep and weep, leaving a box worth of snotty Kleenexes strewn on tables all around him-----and he listens and talks and finds Scripture and prays with you and listens some more-----and doesn't leave until you are somewhat coherent----and then he has the courage to risk walking into the same scene 2 days later------

You've heard of a man's man.....
I have a pastor's pastor.

Jim, as cancer rocks our world, as a shepherd, pastor and friend, you rock.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


On a lighter note....

Our dishwasher burned out yesterday. Yes, I needed that on top of my only child leaving home and a cancer diagnosis. But Amana knew none of that, so burned out it did.

BEFORE CANCER: Trying to be a good steward of our income, I price compare big items. I rip up to Sioux Falls for a morning, compare dishwashers at Lowe's, Best Buy and Home Depot, comparing prices to features, haggling over delivery costs, come home 4 hours later with my list of information to ponder and then make a call to order one.

AFTER CANCER: Walking into our little town's one and only appliance dealer, I see 4 dishwashers lined up in slots. "What is the difference between the $319 model and the $399 model?"  The cheaper one has no top rinse, but I do have one model priced in between those two which has top rinse. I'm currently out, but they will come in this week.  "Sounds fine. Order me one. Call when it comes."

Cancer simplifies.


Our first meeting with the oncologist today was good. Dr. V is compassionate, smart, logical, intuitive, non-threatened by 2nd opinions if needed, and we trusted her immediately. I am so grateful for the recommendation that sent us to her.

The second step now is the most fearful in terms of results. We have a PET scan scheduled for Friday afternoon, and a brain MRI to be scheduled probably on Thursday. These will tell us if the cancer has metastacized and spread to other parts of my body. She was very honest in saying that if indeed that is the case, it is likely incurable. She did say that many people can manage to live for various amounts of time with an incurable cancer. If it has not spread (this would be the miracle), then we sit down and examine options of radiation, chemo or surgery. The location of the tumor is not in the greatest place for surgical options, but we will cross that bridge when we have to.

I was reading a commentary on Job today, and the nugget that I gleaned from it was that we need to trust God not just WHEN we don't understand, but BECAUSE we don't understand. If God is perfect, and I know He is, then EVERYTHING He allows to happen in my life is also perfect, whether or not I understand it.

To take this kind of trust to a visceral level is my real faith challenge, because I am such a "feelings" person. When the waves of panic grip me at 3 AM, I am not FEELING that trust yet. But I know it to be truth. And everyday I am trying to feel the truth more and more in my gut.

I would be lying through my stinkin' teeth if I said I wasn't scared. My faith is being tested far beyond a point I ever thought it could be. Life sucks, big-time, right now. But God.....oh, He is still so good.

Thanks for continued prayer that the cancer has not spread.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I have cancer. The word, 4 days later, still leaves a haunting, noxious taste on my lips. Feels heavy, foreign.

But so it is. I have lung cancer. Blindsided by it. And the new normal that is now my life has begun. We are not sure how to travel this new and fearful road, but we have been placed on it.

When your world is rocked apart, there is nothing the same about life. Things that seemed so important 5 days ago are laughable, things that seemed worthy of discussion feel trite.

I know this and this only to be true. My God was not taken by surprise. He is as faithful to me today as he was 5 days ago. He knew this would be one of the life journeys I would be on, and we walk it with His arms around us. He has revealed His grace and His love and His utter faithfulness through my life's trials and heartaches, and I know He is carrying me-----us----right now. While in this first stage of grief, my emotions are clouded and my words are wavering, I know God to be changeless and unaffected by how I am "feeling."  And I know when the final chapter of my story is written, whether I live through cancer or die from cancer, I want my Savior to be glorified. I will praise him in this storm, because there will be treasures in this darkness that I do not want to miss. I intend to find them.


* My former physician covered me with support last night, and suggested an oncologist, whom I was fortunate enough to get an appointment with tomorrow. She will never know how much that meant.

* I was able to eat more food today. Stress obliterates my appetite, and I have not eaten much in 4 days.

* By tomorrow, I should have a PET scan scheduled. The next crucial step in determining if my cancer has spread

* My amazing supportive family. I could never find words to describe their love and support.


*That the PET scan could be scheduled as soon as possible.....that I might like this oncologist.......that I could continue to eat and not lose weight......that D and I could give our son's last week at home some degree of normalcy, and that he would be able
to flourish at college despite the ache in his heart over me.