Monday, February 25, 2013


On Sunday morning before we left for church, Sam received a text from the president of Dordt College asking all students to pray for a sophomore girl at Northwestern College, another Christian college just 12 miles from Dordt. The text said she had lost her entire family in a horrific car accident Saturday night in Sioux Falls. We were shocked by this news and felt so deeply for this surviving child. Little did we know then that the mother who died is Sam’s second cousin.

When names were released, the mom’s maiden name was not included and Dick found out from another relative that indeed, this family had Ekstrom blood. The mom’s father is Dick’s first cousin.

They were driving home from their son’s basketball game. A 16-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, both athletes at Sioux Falls Christian High School, as well as the dad died at the scene. The mother died at the hospital. The cause of the accident was not alcohol or icy roads. They are investigating to try to find a cause as to why they swerved into the median and hit 2 guard rails, vaulted in the air and landed under a bridge. Unless they find a medical reason in autopsy, or find fault in the car, we will never know why it happened. Was it a coyote or fox or dog crossing the road that led them to swerve? Who knows. I know the family will long for an answer it may never receive.

When I left for work this morning, I held my husband a bit longer than usual. Truly, one never knows when they will see a loved one for the last time. You really never know. You think you are simply driving home from an out-of-town eighth grade basketball game, but instead, your life ends.

Please pray for this family. The grief of grandparents, siblings, cousins and friends is unimaginable. And the grief of Brittany, the surviving daughter, is so profound that no emotional scale could measure it. Her entire family is gone. The Vollmer family needs prayer. Thanks.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


            One of my three favorite reality TV shows is The Biggest Loser. I didn't discover it until season 3, when I readily got hooked. It is now season 14, and I have faithfully watched each season. 
            I am awed by the depth and breadth of determination and dedication it takes for these contestants to drop these tremendous amounts of weight. I would be lying if I said I understand what it feels like. I do not. Every human has something he or she struggles with on a personal level. My thorn in the flesh does not happen to be weight. 
            But my admiration is fathoms deep for the way these people have broken their bondage to over-eating and under-exercising. I will never forget Erik, the winner that season I started watching, who lost 214 pounds, from a starting weight of 407 down to 193. He was barely recognizable at the final weigh-in. I love the big reveals at the end where they all return to show off their transformed bodies---and lives.
            I think what makes me such a cheerleader of Biggest Loser is the fact that these competitors “get it.” It is not just about squeezing into a size 6 dress or a pair of 32 waist Dockers. It is about being able to go out and play basketball with their sons, or have the energy to get down on the floor to play with their grandbabies, or to simply be alive in years to come to walk their daughters down the aisle. They know they are saving their lives, not just improving their images and lowering their LDL.
            All that said, at the end of each season, I find myself ruminating about these “big losers” and remind myself that in reality-life, as opposed to reality-show, the true “biggest losers” are those who do not know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. They are lost spiritually, lost eternally. They have no hope for an eternity that is promised to be more magnificent than anyone can imagine. A place where everyone will be in perfect health.
            These determined contestants are winners at losing weight, but unless they know Jesus as their savior, they are losers at the only goal in this life that is worth striving for. Salvation. The assurance of heaven when we die.
            I never know who is or is not a Christian on this show, but I know that any who are would tell us that they have already won the big prize long before the final weigh-in proclaimed the big winner. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Getting a CT scan report of "normal" is double-edged news. On the one hand, you want them to find the reason for all the stomach pain. On the other hand, you are glad you do not have an ulcer or tumor or something else causing it. Blessedly, the pain has been waning on its own the past 3 days, for which I am very grateful. Enough even that I went back to work yesterday for the first time in 3 weeks, and it felt so good!!

My oncologist has scheduled me to see a GI doc in another week to discuss possibilities for managing this side effect. He is hoping that there is a "miracle remedy" for chemo-induced constipation that I can take so that he can get me back on the regular dose of chemo. In the meantime I am continuing on the half dose (not that my system has triggered itself back to normal yet). I know that chemo takers either have chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation. I think that the diarrhea would be preferable, though maybe if that was my problem, I would readily trade it back for the plug-up.

My mom used to have a lithograph in the bathroom at our Bad Medicine Lake cabin featuring a clothesline full of clothes blowing in the breeze. It read, "If all of our troubles were hung on a line, you would take yours and I would take mine." Maybe in the grand scheme of chemo side effects, this adage is true. Either way, I need to deal with it. 

Richie and I are headed over to Dordt shortly for a play-off game, and then Sam is going to drive home  in his own car after the game and spend the night. "I want to sleep in my own bed, study in quiet, and eat some good food." Not even a haircut on his agenda! We will take him for any and all reasons and be that "soft spot" for him to fall, even if it is for only 20 hours!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


It has been a trying 11 days. When your colon is paralyzed, life gets messy. On the heels of dealing with more of that, I developed bad stomach pain which was odd and random. The local docs kept telling me it was all a part of the chemo-induced constipation, but I have dealt with that issue to one degree or another for over 2 years and it has never been accompanied by stomach pain. So this morning I had a CT scan of my belly and abdomen and we'll see what that shows. I am praying there will be an easy-to-treat diagnosis.

I told my husband last night that I just dream about being ME again. Healthy and able to think about OTHERS instead of all my own issues. Cancer makes one turn inward, and I suppose that is totally normal, but it is ugly when you have never been that way. I want to have the energy again to give back to others and stop thinking about me. Easier said than done when your body keeps throwing curve balls in your path.

Our reno is about 3/4 done (hey, maybe the chaos in the house was the reason for the gut pain) and we will be thrilled to have furniture all back in its rightful place. I keep saying that every reno is THE LAST ONE just because of all the upheaval, but when you are trying to bring a 1964 house into the current age, you just have to put up with it. 

My eye appointment yesterday yielded no new information on my vitreous detachment. My optometrist here had given me the identical information. LIVE WITH IT! Just another thing for God to heal!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


            The other day, as nostalgia reared its sweet head, I popped in a video of Sam’s first week at home. It never fails to make me cry to see the miracle he was, so fresh from God, so desperately wanted and waited for. As I watched the video, I was achingly aware that those first weeks after his birth were a treasure to us in large part because of my precious mom. She came the day of his birth and stayed for two and a half weeks.
            Her commitment to us was an unparalleled gift. Mom did all of the cooking, shopping, laundry, errands, and housecleaning. She took over every task that would take me away from baby care. Mom encouraged me to take naps when Sam napped so I’d be rested. She sent me out for walks to get exercise. She taught us oh-so-many things about caring for an infant that come only with experience. We can still giggle when we remember the antics of Sam’s first bath.
            In the middle of the night, at Sam’s first squeak, by the time I got up and walked the ten steps to his nursery, Mom was already there, changing him and handing him to me to nurse. When I was done, she came back in the room, took him from my arms and burped him, loved on him, and rocked him back to sleep so that I could go back to bed. She gave up sleep so I could have more sleep in those otherwise sleep-deprived first weeks.
            Mom took on all of the work of running our household so that I could spend my days falling in love with my son. She did all the work to gift me with time. Eighteen days that I did nothing but cuddle, rock, kiss, nurse, read to (yeah, we started early), sing to, talk to, and dance with our newborn son.
            On the day Dad came to pick her up, I didn't know how I was ever going to say goodbye to Mom. Through my tears, I tried to express to her our thanks, but words were inexpressible. I remember saying, “I could never repay you for what you have done for us, what you have given to us, the start you have given us on this parenting journey.”
            Mom said, “I do not ever want repayment. It was my joy to do this for you. It was so special to spend these days with you and Sam. You can repay me by doing the same for Sam and his wife someday. Just pass it on. That’s my reward.”
            Taking upon herself all the work so that I would have this cherished block of time with our son was a blessed and undeserved gift, to be sure. And all she wanted was for us to pay it forward.
            While my mom did not suffer torture as she cared for our family, what she did for Dick and me had its roots in what Jesus has done for us all. He did suffer torture….He did all “the work” necessary to give us who choose to follow Him an unspeakable gift. Like my mom’s gift of time, Jesus’ gift was also a block of time. Eternal life. He endured pain, scourging, whipping, and unbearable feelings of abandonment and torment as He accepted His Father’s will that He be crucified. He did it for only one reason. To pay the price for our sins and our diseases. He shed His blood to make us righteous before God so that we would possess and treasure time in eternity with Him.
            And what does God ask us in return? Pay it forward. Tell others about His gift of salvation. Feed the hungry. Tend the needy. Bring the lost to Christ. Spread the gospel with our words, our actions, our lives. He has never wanted us to pay Him back for His sacrifice and we couldn't if we wanted to. It is a free gift of grace to us unworthy sinners. All our Lord wants is for us to share the Good News with those who do not know Him.
            As I reflect on Valentine's Day tomorrow, the day we celebrate "love," it seems to me that the definition of love has been watered down to chocolates and flowers and overused clich├ęs. You don't hear much about sacrifice and selflessness on February 14th. You don't hear much about loving someone so much that all you ask of them is to accept your love and pay it forward.
            In our quid pro quo culture of today, many acts of sacrifice are seen as a waste of time. In God’s economy, sacrifice and devotion to others are the real means to “wealth.” By that spiritual standard, my mom has always been a rich woman. And my Savior? Well, He is the whole bank.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


The chemo won this round. I could not go on any longer being plugged up, and had tried every remedy possible. My oncologist told me yesterday to go back down to a single dose of the chemo, at least for now, to see if we can de-paralyze my colon. I did finally have total relief last night after another 9 days. I will leave out the details, but suffice it to say, there are many definitions of spousal love. I lost 3 pounds in an hour, and started shaking badly because my electrolytes were totally messed up. But today, I have a flat stomach and back to 111 pounds. I was able to get to the wellness center to lift weights again after being unable to function for a week. The sun is shining, it is 40 degrees and I just took a great walk (we still have grass and no has been a fairly snowless winter). If our house were not in total chaos right now (the dining room is being reno'd) I would see snippets of normalcy today. 

I am well aware that the single doses of chemo, from a pharmacology standpoint, were no longer keeping the cancer cells at bay. But I also have faith that God is still healing, and that He really does not even need chemo at all, so I am accepting this change without much angst. In fact, I may just decide to stay on the single dose, even after my peristalsis is working again. Dick and Sam and I will have to confer about that and make a decision.

I will see an ophthalmologist on Thursday about this vitreous detachment. I think I have a second one in the right eye....the blurry vision is worse. I just need another opinion about whether there is anything at all that could be done about it. If not, another miracle healing to pray for.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Time between posts has been occupied with what I had hoped would not happen again. But did. The chemo double dose has shut down my peristalsis. (I should take some pride in what must be close to a world record of "not going" for 11 days) If you have thought it, I have tried it. If it has been manufactured, I have purchased it. If it is an old wives' folk remedy, it has been done. A few of the remedies have been comic relief for Dick and me. And, nothing. 

An x-ray done on Wednesday showed no impaction, and they gave me a new script for something "stronger" which I started yesterday. We will see. I look 5 months pregnant, and am very hard-bellied, but there is only so much one can complain about this side effect without sounding like a 85-year-old, waxing on about her bowels. 

I am grateful I was raised in a family who is quite cavalier and open about bodily functions. When we have to talk about poop, we just do. If I was uptight about this subject, I would be sorely embarrassed by now. It just is what it is. OK. Enough bowel talk.

We praise God for a miracle healing for our friend Darrell up in Minnesota. Almost 5 years of being cancer-free from stage 4 colon cancer, they found a another tumor in the liver. We, and hundreds of others prayed for him, and especially that God would take that tumor out even before surgery. Well, they should have re-scanned him before his 6 hour surgery, because they COULD. NOT. FIND. THE. TUMOR.!! Our great Jehovah-Rapha, Healer God, dissolved the tumor!! No cancer! Sadly, he has to go through a long recovery from the surgery, but his testimony is awesome. Doubters that God still divinely heals today? Take note.

We are continuing to pray boldly for healing for our friend Ken here who is going to have surgery for his brain tumor on Tuesday. If you read this blog post before Tuesday, please pray a prayer for Ken.....and stand in faith for healing for him.

Along with Ken and his wife Earleen and my friend Darrell and his family, my thoughts and prayers this week have also been with my brother-in-law who lost his mom and my sister-in-law who lost her dad. It makes me weep with gratitude that I still have my precious parents in my life. I still need them.

I have the latest manuscript of my book on healing at the printer. I already have 3 people who want copies. Even my best friend's pastor wants one. He has been reading books on healing and when Susan let him read her copy of mine, he said it was the most understandable of all he has read on the subject. I was so humbled by that comment. Understandable was exactly what I was shooting for. Clear and simple proof that healing is what God wants for His followers.

I need to get going. My hubbie and I have date night tonight. At Walmart. Buying groceries. You might think that sounds pathetic, but it is huge step up from the other "dates" we have been forced to have the past 2 weeks, the venue being in the bathroom. Yes. Walmart sounds pretty dang romantic tonight.