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!!!