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!!"