Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Upon hearing the news about my tumor, two people have looked at me with a question in their eyes and stated with wonder, “You knew.”  

I did.

And I don’t think God would be pleased unless I took the time to write about the simple reasons why I knew my tumor would leave my lung. Some of you, I know, have been following these posts for 4 years. Many of you have begun to read it only in the past year or two and have missed many of the posts I have written explaining why my faith in healing has been strong.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ and consider Him your Savior, it is good to be reminded of the truth that is generally withheld from sermons and teachings. The truth is that divine healing is just as much of a promise from God as His peace, grace, and provision. There seems to be a pervasive reluctance among leaders in our churches today to expound upon the promises of God. I’m not sure why. There is so much power in God’s promises, if you have faith in them.

Faith does not mean that you HOPE in the promises. It means that you know God means what He says in His word. Faith is not believing that God can do something. It is knowing He will.

Dick and I have come to know that God is who He says He is. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). He is absolutely faithful to providing what is promised. He cannot change (Malachi 3:6). He keeps all of His promises. Every one.

What were these promises that Dick and I have stood on?

There have been specific promises regarding healing. Here are just a few of them:

Ps 103:4-5        He forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.

Matt 8:16-17   Jesus cast out demons with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was written by the prophet Isaiah: He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.

Exodus 15:26   I am the God who heals you.

And then, more simply, there are the promises that Christians see in Scripture and can often recite by heart but they are not taken as promises that God will keep. I hear things like: the promises are all relative, they apply to others and not me, if God hasn’t fulfilled this promise by now, He is not going to, etc. So many believers do not stand on them as applying to themselves. They don’t have faith in them.

These are some of the amazing promises our Creator has made to us who follow Jesus Christ:

I Jn 15:14-15   This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him.

John 14:13       I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the Son may bring glory to the father. You may ask Me for anything in My name and I will do it.

Matt 21:22    If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer

John 10:10       The devil comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Mk 11:22-23   Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Dick and I learned that there was not one word, even translated from the original Greek, which excluded physical or emotional healing from ANY of those promises. We knew that healing was God’s will because He sent Jesus into the world to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8), and what did Jesus do? He healed everyone who asked him. If healing was not God’s will, Jesus was violating it every time he laid hands on someone and healed them or delivered them.

So knowing healing was God’s will, we knew we could look at any of the above promises and trust that they applied to my cancer. We knew God would be honored by our faith in the promises without wavering. Without faith, the Bible says, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).

We learned we could cast that mountain of cancer into the sea in the name of Jesus and that it mattered.

And so we held fast.

Did I have some days of despair in 4 years? You bet I did. Plenty of them. Satan did his level best to derail my faith in healing. Pain and nausea and fatigue and constipation and inability to function in general takes a toll and I had a few dandy pity parties. Fear would creep into my soul and I would hide inside of it. But Dick refused to come to any party I threw and always set me back on track and we continued to claim our promises. We claimed them when others rolled their eyes as if we were in denial. We claimed them through the pain. We claimed them when the tumors grew. We claimed them when the cancer cells proliferated. We claimed them only because God said it was so.

You will hear the argument that we cannot dictate to God what His will is in this matter. You are right! You can’t. We didn’t ever tell God what to do for us. HE told US what HE was going to do!! We read and believed.

When God hands you a signed check, you need to cash it, not stow it in your desk of doubt.

People are so afraid of dictating to God what they want to happen that they can’t muster up any faith for what He has already promised WILL happen.

Faith is not conjuring up, through an act of your will, a sense of certainty that something is going to happen. No, it is recognizing God’s promise as an actual fact, believing it is true, rejoicing in the knowledge of that truth, and then simply resting because God said it. Faith turns a promise into a prophecy. A promise is contingent upon our cooperation, but when we exercise genuine faith in it, it becomes a prophecy. Then we can move ahead with certainty that it will come to pass, because God does not lie. (Streams in the Desert devotional, Reiman)

Listen up, believers. Listen and believe. The Bible is very clear about how faithful our Lord is:

Ps 145:13          The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all 
          He does.

Num 23:19        God is not a man, that he should lie; He doesn’t change his mind like humans do. Has he ever promised without doing what he said?

Titus 1:2            God cannot lie.

2 Cor 1:18-20    Jesus isn’t one to say yes when he means no. He always does exactly what he says. He carries out and fulfills all of God’s promises, no matter how many of them there are; and we have told everyone how faithful he is, giving glory to his name.

Psalm 33:4        God’s word is true and everything he does is right.

If these verses are nothing more than strokes of a keyboard on thin paper, then the Bible is a  farce. As Christians, we either take God’s Word at face value, and bank our lives on what He says, or we treat it with a sacreligious relativity. It cannot be both.

If God says it, you can believe it.

Even if you have to wait 4 years and 4 months to see the fulfillment.

Cancer makes you desperate. And our desperation led us to the truth of who Jehovah-Rapha, our Healer God, really was. We began to study and read and pray. And we found the promises. We parked our car of stage 4 cancer at the feet of the throne of God and basically told Him, “You have said that you will give us what we ask for if it is in line with your will. We want this tumor to go away. And we believe you will do it someday. We believe it because You said it. And we will wait.”

We chose to believe God’s words.

We chose faith, not hope.

We chose to absorb the truth and to wait.

We knew.

We are neither “lucky” nor “deserving” nor “a fluke.”

We are kids of the King who chose to listen to our Father and believe Him. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014


A blessed Christmas to you!!

We are a grateful family this Christmas!!

Saturday, December 20, 2014


How do you behold a miracle?

How do you bow before your Creator, Savior, Healer and say thank you for life? For a second chance.

          What is man that You are mindful of him? Psalm 8:4

How do you wrap your mind around the fact that the same finger which touched vast emptiness and created out of it the stars and the planets and the human race also touched your own lung?

And Jesus said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction."(Mark 5:34)

Oh, yes, Lord!

I have held onto faith in His promises for healing for 4 years and 3 months. I have expected it, every CT scan, every PET scan. I knew I would hear the words, “No tumor” someday. I had faith that when God picked up the pen to write the final chapter of this story, that cancer, the devil’s great destroyer, would not be in the last paragraph.

I just did not realize that when the words would be said, I would still be stricken with such awe, such gratitude, such relief, such joy.

Every prayer was heard. The pain, the fear, the frustration, the sickness, the side effects….it is my monument to the greatness of our God.

My primary tumor, doubled in size in August, is “patchy density.” There was NO TUMOR TO MEASURE. My other two new tumors of August are fibrous tissue. There is a small amount of uptake in the scan, but the doctors cannot say whether this is inflammation or cancer cells. We will re-scan in 3 months.

Medical science will not consider this a “healing” because we need to check the uptake in 3 months. Even then, the doctor carefully said, “We can’t ever treat this as if it is gone.”


My God can treat it that way. And His is the only report I listen to.

I will reserve using the word HEALED until the next scan. But as far as I am concerned, this is pretty miraculous for stage 4 incurable cancer.

I received one miracle on November 5, 1991. I should be this blessed to be seeing another one?

All glory and honor to You, Almighty God. This is Your handiwork. This has Your power, Your faithfulness and Your mercy written all over it.

Monday, December 15, 2014


I spent the week moving my mom into a new apartment. From an academic standpoint, it was all wrong. But in real life, it was so right.

In my Master's program for Gerontology, I had two focus areas: sexuality and aging; and death/dying/grief. I know a great deal about the grief process and how to work through it.

For years, when teaching death and dying, I have given the "party line".......research shows that grieving people, especially elderly people, should NOT make any major decisions or moves for 6 months to a year after a spouse's death. Research shows that often, those decisions, made in the middle of emotional angst, are regretted.

My dad has been gone now for 2-and-a-half months. And my mom decided to move. On nearly every level, this might have felt like a knee-jerk decision, and one that we should have cautioned against. But it felt so very right.

Mom had wanted to be on first floor of her complex from the start, but their name came up on the waiting list for an opening on second floor. She had never stopped wanting to be on the first floor. It was easier to walk down to the dining room and she was tired of elevators. The first floor units were designed with 15-foot ceilings, so they feel incredibly spacious.

A unit became available 2 weeks ago, and though it is smaller, it was love-at-first-sight. Their apartment had a north exposure, faced an industrial (and loud) air conditioner, and was dark. Mom's new place has a southern exposure with light pouring through large windows and a patio, and overlooks the lawn with pine trees!

I brought Sam's bed for her----which he has used for 17 years and doesn't even know yet that I removed from his room----but was once Mom and Dad's first bed when they married. I brought the matching bedside table they used. I brought the quilt that Grama had cross-stitched and quilted for me when I was 7 and used my whole childhood. Mom was touched to tears to walk in and see "her" old bed and her mom's handiwork surrounding her. It was like going home to Jamestown.

My brother Chris and I had a corner of items left in the upstairs apartment to comb through and when we went up to take those last few things out and lock the old doors, we both said how almost suffocating it felt in there. There was sadness living in the walls. When you looked into the bedroom, you felt Dad's pain and suffering. It became a place of isolation and grief for Mom (and really, for us all, as we provided the caregiving). Chris and I could not leave quickly enough and turn in the key.

For a 94-year-old to choose and make this move and deal with re-learning where things are in each drawer and cupboard and re-orient herself in the closets is cause for applause. She is meeting delightful women down on first floor.....many widows.....and she is loving sitting and looking at the trees and drinking in the sunshine. The place makes all of us simply smile. When you walk in, there is a new freedom, a new light and airy feeling in your soul. It is a new start.

I have my first PET scan this week since having radiation in September, trying and failing a new chemo drug, and being completely off all medical intervention for one month. I have no idea what is happening in my body. We will know the results on Friday. My faith is unchanged in healing. With every scan, I wait to hear the words, "No evidence of cancer." 

Maybe Friday.

Thursday, December 4, 2014



I wonder if any other Old Testament figure endured the personal anguish that he did.

The favorite son of Jacob, he was hated by his 10 jealous older brothers who conspired against him and sold him to slave traders, then lied to Jacob, saying that Joseph had been mauled by a stray animal.

Betrayed by his own brothers. Thrown into a pit and then sold as an animal would be. I can’t imagine the pain of that familial betrayal.

He was then sold again by those traders to Potiphar, an officer of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Joseph served well under Potiphar, but his master’s wife wrongly accused him of rape one day. A man of impeccable integrity, I cannot imagine how he coped with the pain of false accusation. On top of his personal angst, he was thrown into prison for the alleged crime.

Each time I read Joseph’s story, I am newly amazed at this man’s tenacity, his confidence in God’s providence over his life, and his boundless determination to see good evolve from evil.

His life ended well, as we know. The prison keeper befriended him and learned of Joseph’s divine ability to interpret dreams. After Joseph interpreted a dream for Pharaoh, he was elevated to a place of prominence and given governance over the land and crops of Egypt, eventually saving his entire extended family from starvation during 7 years of famine that he himself foresaw. 

Joseph’s struggles and burdens have shaped him. His pain has taught him lessons. How do we know this?

Baby names. 

In Genesis 41:51 we see that Joseph names his first son Manasseh, which means “God has made me forget all my troubles.” And then he has a second son and names him Ephraim, which means “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

He forgot the pain and found meaning in it all. Wow.

So profound were those two lessons that Joseph wove them into the names of his first two children.

As I wallow in the land of uncertainty with cancer, wondering if it is still growing, being off all medical treatment, wondering what my real diagnosis is, wondering if I will have to endure more horrible side effects……. I am brought to my knees with thoughts of Joseph.

He teaches me that God will bring enough healing to me someday that I will forget all of the emotional and physical pain of the past 4 years, and he teaches me that God will bring something fruitful, something of value, from this vast and dark expanse called cancer.

On days when I have a hard time believing that, I only need to flip back to that 41st chapter of Genesis and take my cues from one whose adversity more than rivaled my own. Joseph pressed His soul into His Lord and trusted His sovereignty. He endured his pain. He put one foot in front of the other and kept moving two steps forward, one step back. He walked straight through several hells on earth before God showed His hand.

And then Joseph sees the larger picture. He sees how the path of his pain has brought a blessing to his family.

"What you meant for evil, God turned into good." (Gen 50:20)

Joseph’s finest words to his brothers. 

His verbal magnum opus.

His realization that beauty comes from ashes when you trust that the last chapter in a book of suffering and adversity will always be written by the One who makes the ending one of boundless worth.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


So grateful for these two men in my life who love me deeply and encourage me and make me laugh and support me and pray with me and make my life so very rich!!

So grateful that next Thanksgiving there will be 4 of us in the picture, and that our beautiful daughter-in-law-to-be will be adding new sparkle and dimension to our lives!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Anyone who knows me knows that I readily defend the choice of being a stay-at-home mom. While it should be as equally respected as a working mom's choice to spend her days in the business world, stay-at-home moms (SAHMS) too often today are maligned and made to feel "lesser than" their counterparts. Made to feel that raising their children as their full-time job is less worthy than bringing home a salary. That gets my dander up. 

I was a SAHM and loved my choice. I got the opportunity to become a nurse, teacher, guidance counselor, dietitian, recreation director, librarian and master-molder-of-a-little-soul. The role is not everyone's choice, but it was mine and I don't regret it for one second.

Kim was my best SAHM friend. We met in Duluth's awesome Early Childhood Family Education program. Kim and Dan's Ben and our Sam were both 2, bright, and social. We discovered we lived only 4 blocks apart so we became fast friends. Lots of play dates, mom talk, and simply supporting each other in these wonderful new roles we had assumed. Kim was a human resources director and I was a gerontology consultant when we had our babies and chose to put our careers on standby and stay home. Each of us had bought modest homes whose mortgages could be covered by our husband's salaries so if we ever decided to stay home, we could. We did. And we reveled in our friendship and in our boys.

Kim and Dan left Duluth when the boys were about 4 and we continued to have occasional mom/son reunions with them. Though we do not see each other often anymore, Kim will always be one of my dearest friends.

A few days ago I got a letter from her and her words brought back into vivid focus our SAHM lives and how much they meant to us both.

In her letter she writes that a friend of hers was talking about someone Kim knew, and in the course of the comment, Kim's friend said, "....she's JUST a stay-at-home mom."

Kim's letter to me continues:
"Mary, I was so offended. And this from a long-time friend. It made me reflect and recall all those years ago and our beautiful supportive connection over our two precious sons. Our like-minded, soulful devotion to what we knew in our hearts and minds to be right---that we would devote our days to shaping their lives. It made me smile and thank God for my stay-at-home friends that "get it" and share a value we don't need to justify. Not that all those days were perfect days, but I truly see all our hard work reflected in the beautiful young adults they have become."

It tickles me that Kim still shares with me the strong feelings we had about our SAHM years. Did we scale back our budgets those years? Absolutely. But we never felt as if it was not worth it. No matter what ignorant people may say about the choice that we and hundreds of thousands of other current SAHMS make, all of us in "the SAHM club" know that our choice is one we will never regret and one most of us can say was the best thing we ever did for our families. It grieves and angers me when working mothers demean the stay-at-home contingent.

A young friend of mine named Meredith just had her first child. In August she told me that she wanted to work at least part-time after the baby was born. Eli is only 6 weeks old, so she has not made any final decisions yet. She did say to me on Thursday, "I don't know if I could ever leave him and go back to work." I told her those were my exact feelings 23 years ago.

If Mere does change her mind and decide to find a job, good for her. If she decides she wants to stay home with Elijah, good for her as well. She will make the right choice for Eli and herself. I only hope that if she decides to be a SAHM that some misguided woman does not try to make her feel as if spending her days raising her baby son are somehow less valuable than spending them in the workplace.

Kim, I miss you and love you, girl!! Our stay-at-home days together are still so precious to me, and I am so grateful I had you to share them with!!

Friday, November 21, 2014


My consult at the University of Colorado Cancer Center was well worth the expense of the trip, and yielded information which we did not expect.

I met with Dr. Ross Camidge, the man who is the nation's leader (maybe the world's) in researching treatment for the ALK mutation of non-small cell lung cancers. This was what I presumably have had.

Then again, maybe not.

Dr. C has sound reasons to suspect I have been misdiagnosed. With ALK, I SHOULD have responded much more aggressively to both the infusion maintenance drug I was on for a year AND the oral chemo I have taken for the past 2 years. With ALK, the disease should have responded much more rapidly. Mine has been in a holding pattern, more or less.

He discovered that the tissue which was biopsied (which determined the ALK) was done using a process called staining. The process he uses to do molecular-level testing on tissue is FISH (don't ask me what it stands for), which is the only licensed and standardized way to test this. Non-FISH testing can yield false positives.

I have plenty of emotions about this possibility of being misdiagnosed, but the negative ones do not help me at all. Resentment just breeds anxiety and I will try instead to be grateful that my lung program nurse practitioner pushed me to go see Dr. C in the first place, and that the information may be useful in the present.

After we see what my next PET scan shows (3 weeks), Dr. C would like me to come to Denver for a new biopsy (done through the lung and not the throat as I had here) and the FISH testing which UCCC would do themselves.

If I have an entirely new type of identification for my cancer, he may have some targeted chemo therapies to offer me, depending upon what it is. IF I do, indeed, have ALK, then I am an odd-ball case which does not respond in the way that most people do. 

Whatever they find at that point, we then will entertain our options and make decisions. Our faith in God's promises to heal me have not faltered. My cancer, no matter what kind I have, is considered medically incurable, and God is still the only "option" I have for total healing. I do not deviate from that. Somewhere on this very long road named cancer, I believe He will show His hand and remove every trace of disease from my body. My faith will not move from that.

Until that happens, I will continue to ferret out knowledge, all given by God, which I can use.

Dr. Camidge is such a class act, a British man, who inspires great confidence. I will choose to have him "call the shots" from here on, meaning more trips to Denver. UCCC is where I need to be for this lung cancer. They are at the epicenter of the research.

And the funniest moment of the consult?  He knew that I had to stop taking Zykadia, one of his drugs, which I have been attempting to take for a month, which was killing me with side effects and stealing my life, and in the end was shooting my liver values off the charts. He looks at me and says, "That Zykadia is the most terrible drug EVER, isn't it?" 

I told him how affirming it was to hear that!! He said, "I created it, but nobody is handling it well. Nobody. In two years, it will be off the market." Loved his honesty and humility.

Fortunately, he has at least 3 other drugs in clinical trials for the ALK, and 2 others that are now FDA approved. I do have choices If ALK is my cancer.

Dick and I haven't road-tripped in many many years. We learned we don't have the stamina for the 10-12 hour driving days we used to have. A motel at 4:00 in the afternoon is our speed now. We learned that driving 70 instead of 75 yields a 3-mpg difference in gas. We learned that the best donuts in the entire world are in a dingy little main street bakery in Brush, Colorado, run by a sweet old geezer for the past 22 years. They were 8 inches in diameter and to die for. (And yes, we got off the freeway on the way home to get another one, and oohed and aahed all over again!) We learned that I-80 to Denver is about the most desolate drive on the face of the earth. 

We were able to see our niece Anna and her family, husband Tim and the two kiddos, for dinner one night. They live in a northern suburb. They made a wonderful meal and we had a great visit. It was so special to see them and to now be able to picture them in their home and neighborhood.

Thank you all for praying about this consult. Every prayer was answered. God was there, and meeting all of our expectations for the consult and the trip. There was not one flake of snow on any road, miraculous after last week's fiasco across the midwest and upper midwest. 

God is good. All the time.

Friday, November 14, 2014


I am strangely calm about the crossroad ahead for me. I am going to Denver next week to consult at the University of Colorado Cancer Center with the one researcher who has developed two generations of drugs that have shown some response to my type of cancer.

I clearly got the sign on Tuesday that the 2nd generation drug is not going to work for me.

This puts me at the "Y" in the road. Either Dr. C has another drug in the works for me to try, or God and I blow this pop stand and hit the road by ourselves.

Like I said, I am strangely calm. Call it faith. Call it unwavering trust in the One who loves me passionately and holds my life in His hands. By the end of next week I should have all the colors I need to paint the future picture of my life with cancer.

And now, can a mother shamelessly promote her son?

Sam has been named moderator and co-host of a new sports radio talk show in Minneapolis called The Wake-Up Call on Sunday mornings from 8-10. This is SO his element, and we are so proud of him and cannot wait to tune in. He was born to do this!!

If you are sitting around on Sunday morning and would like the up-to-the-minute scoop on the Timberwolves, Vikings, Gophers and Wild, you can tune in and hear the show at Click the large LISTEN LIVE link on the top of the webpage. If you want to tune in, but can't until later, you can access the show anytime via the PODCASTS link.

I would appreciate prayers for traveling mercies next week. This blast of winter weather could make driving less than easy, so please pray hedges of protection around the car!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I feel like I am the protagonist of a book, not called  "Where's Waldo?" but called, "What's Happened to Mary Today?"

I feel like I am the star of a bad movie, each scene offering another side effect, problem, pain.

So. Things have been worse than I ever dreamed. I have been walking down the path of liver failure without any knowledge, brought about by the chemo that is supposed to be shrinking cancer tumors.

When I picked up my blood work results yesterday, I noticed 3 values that were over-the-top high that are related to kidney/liver function. (For example, my alkaline phosphotase, with a normal high limit of 150, was 773.) I mean these 3 were off the charts.

They faxed the results to my doctor and I waited for a call back.


Well, folks, if you don't think God makes decisions clear, think again.

From a human standpoint, the choice is: growing stage 4 lung tumors or liver failure? Gee, what should I choose?

From God: Trust me, daughter. Do not fear. This is all in My hands.

I will get a blood draw in 1 week to see where the levels are. In the meantime, Dick's and my obvious pray is that there has been no permanent liver damage from this.

This makes the trip to Colorado (still waiting on them to call) even more significant, because if there are no other drugs in clinical trials, then I am God's. All His, to heal or not to heal. I have had faith for 4 years that it will be HEAL. Maybe this is where the rubber meets the road.

I know it will take several days for the drug's side effects to leave my body, but I am looking ahead to a day of no abdominal pain or queasiness or malaise. And it would be more than wonderful if peristalsis (which has been totally dead for 4 years) would return.

Satan is not writing this story, even though he wants to be. This is God's story, a story of HIS glory, and while the devil slithers onto each and every page, he knows he has been defeated and that he is a footstool under the Almighty's feet. At the name of Jesus, he bows. The pen is still in God's hands.

We'll see what the next page brings. Thank you for praying for any liver damage.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


It looks as if my insurance is going to cover the cost of a consultation at the University of Colorado. The researcher/physician who has been developing the chemo drugs to treat my specific type of cancer is going to assess all my medical records and meet with me to discuss my current situation. He will be able to tell me if the participants in the original clinical trials ever became "less sick" over time while taking this Zykadia, and will be able to tell me about anything new he has in the works for 3rd generation chemo drugs.

I am so tired of feeling sick every day. Dick and I are ready for me to regain my life. If Dr. K can offer me no hope for the side effects lessening (and there are many of them), and has nothing else I can try, I am going to go off the drug after my next PET scan on December 18.

So, it looks like we are Colorado-bound. I should be getting a call on Monday or Tuesday from them to set up the appointment. I am thinking we will able to do this in the next couple of weeks. Dick and I have not been on a road trip for many years. If I felt good, we would actually be looking forward to the new scenery. As it is, I can only hope that the driving will not increase my nausea or abdominal pain.

It will be good to get some answers, no matter the outcome.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


When Sam was three, I wrote a book for and to him, documenting our 7 arduous years of infertility. I wanted him to know how hard we fought to conceive and carry him.

The book starts with the following:

Dear Sam,
This is our story....Papa's, mine and yours. It comes from my heart with love. May it always remind you that God gives treasures hidden in darkness when you put your life and your dreams into His generous keeping.

I love you,

It ends with the following paragraph:

At 11:21 a.m., November 5, 1991, with one last massive push, Samuel Hieb Ekstrom entered the world. Five pounds, twelve and one-half ounces. Nineteen and one-half inches long. Strawberry blond hair. Blue eyes. Crying mightily. Alert. Precious. Healthy. And so, so, so, so loved. A baby born to arms that had been empty for so very long. The fulfillment of a dream. God's gift. God's incredible "yes" to years of prayers. All wrapped up in a tiny wide-eyed bundle. His name means "asked of God." His life will be dedicated back to Jesus....with indescribable thanks....and he will grow up knowing and believing that Jesus can do anything, and that His gifts put our grandest dreams to shame.

That was 23 years ago today. The emotions of his birth are as fresh as this morning's dew on the grass. Tears can still come unbidden at the thought of the magnitude of the gift we were given that morning. 

Throughout all of our lives, we are given many gifts that are eventually worn out, lost, threadbare, eaten, forgotten, used up or rusted. 

And there are other gifts that keep on giving forever.

Friday, October 31, 2014


When you raise your family with intentionality, with the goal of forging an interconnectedness between the members that is strong and unwavering, you step right onto the set of It's A Wonderful Life.

[George, in his alternate universe, is taken by angel Clarence to the cemetery where he has discovered his brother Harry's tombstone

Clarence: [explaining] Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine. 
George Bailey: That's a lie! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport! 
Clarence: Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn't there to save them, because you weren't there to save Harry. 
Clarence: Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives.

We all know the message. So many lives in Bedford Falls were affected by one man because George touched lives who then touched more lives who then touched more lives. George's life was never about just himself.

None of ours is.

The import of that lesson has not been lost on me. And this past week, as Dick and Sam and I took 24 hours to make some life-and-death decisions, I knew I could not choose any option on my own. It would be much easier for me to say, "Listen, this cancer and its treatment and side effects are mine and mine alone, and I will be the final decision maker about whether or not to forgo treatment."

Oh, yes, much easier.

But interconnectedness means that that decision affects the rest of two other's lives. It determines, perhaps, whether my husband has a wife and whether my son has a mom. Those are two roles which I do not take lightly. My life affects theirs and their futures. My choices without their being on board, turn me into a selfish wife and mother. 

And so we converged with prayer and discussion. And we found ourselves morphing into a classic Venn diagram. Dick being circle A, Sam being circle B and me being the AB overlap in the middle.

It is important for me to respect and honor the feelings of these two men who mean the world to me. And we finally found an answer which does that. Sam gets what he needs, Dick gets what he needs, and I am willing to orchestrate it all. I am very satisfied with the plan we have laid out.

I am going to try to get a consult with the makers of this current chemo I am on that is making life miserable. I will find out whether or not the clinical trials ever indicated a lessening of the side effects. I will find out whether or not there is a new drug that may be available to try.

Sam would like me to try to stay on this drug until my next scan to determine if, even at this low dose, it is shrinking any tumors. That could be 6 weeks or so. As ready as I am to get off this drug, I will do that for him.

We have agreed that if this drug is my only medical option right now, that it has taken my quality of life, and that it is not worth taking. Between the nausea and body aches and severe constipation and abdominal pain, spending most of the day on the sofa, it has robbed me of my life.

And we have agreed that at that point, we will take the faith in healing that we have held fast to for 4 years, and put it all in God's hands. We know He could have healed me even taking treatment, but He has not yet. If I am not on any treatment, He certainly gets all the glory!! Dick is very ready for this step of faith. I am too. 

I am not naive enough to claim that normal human fear will not enter our hearts if we abandon treatment. It may try to whisper to us, but fear will not live in that decision.

And so we have a plan of attack. Solicit additional information, look at other med options, and then, if necessary, get off the chemo.

I am ready to live life again. I have no desire to die. While I know heaven awaits me someday, I am very much NOT ready to go there right now. I have so many plans and dreams for the next phase of Dick's and my life. We pray that we can walk out those dreams together.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


If there has been a low point in 4 years of having cancer, it is right now. I am dealing with far too much to handle. Does God allow more than we can handle? Yes. For me, it is right now. I had to decrease the already-decreased dose of chemo to less than half the recommended dose because of severe constipation again. The chemo makes me feel foggy and queasy and lethargic and all the laxatives I have to take are making my stomach "off." I am jittery from who-knows-what, and can no longer read. If you know me and books, I need say no more. Every tiny bit of food makes my stomach feel as if I have just had a 10-course meal. 

I am not functioning well at all right now. 

I hear Satan in my head, "The cancer is eating you up. Take care of things."
I hear God in my head, "Trust me, Daughter. Trust me."

For exactly 8 weeks now, life has been surreal. Between the chemo tries and the radiation and its side effects, I have literally "lost" two months. God gave me an amazing 3 days of grace and quasi-normal-feelings to bury my father. Before and after that is a blur. I long to be a wife and mom and teacher again. I am just surviving right now.

It all bears the angst-producing question; do I give up everything? get off all chemo? A very tough call, folks.

On April 15, 1978, my mom gave me a book entitled FAITH IS. It is worn, and for many years sat in a drawer. I found it again recently and find it tremendously comforting. I have it open to these two pages:

FAITH IS.....expecting a sea of golden grain from the bleak, barren, endless fields--watered only by my tears --where I walk alone.

FAITH IS.....claiming God's strength to accept and endure weariness, pain, decline---patiently.

I am in a weird sort of bubble of desperation right now and am not knowing what to do. I am trusting that God will make it clear to me what is happening.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The visions started the week after Dad died. They were not hazy or indistinct. They were vivid and detailed. They lay on the surface of my mind in bed, and they swirl around me when I walk.

My "healing party." 

My "to God be all the glory" celebration.

The season I have had faith will be manifested in my life for 4 years now.

I have been asking God lately, "Does this mean it is soon?" He does not answer me. I would not need to hold onto faith if He spoke, would I.

Satan has done his level best to derail me in the past 6 weeks. Growing tumors, and new ones encapsulating my life-giving bronchial artery have, from a medical point of view, all but removed my name from the short-list of possible-but-not-really names eligible for divine healing. Medically speaking, my cancer is accelerating.

That reality sent me down into the abyss for the entire month of September and the first week of October, as the side effects of a let's-try-radiation desperation measure wreaked havoc on my body and soul. As my brother Mike so aptly puts it, I've been walking in the bottom of the bird cage. 

But I see small improvements daily, and find myself walking steadily OUT of the bottom of the bird cage. And I am washing the doo-doo off the bottom of my shoes right in the devil's face.

And as I climb, the Holy Spirit has given me these visions. Visions that mock medical reality. Visions of life and joy and celebrating God's faithfulness to a woman who deserves nothing, but has hung on for dear life, knowing that God is true to His promises, and He promises deliverance.

I already have roles assigned. I have Sam on drums, Gretchen and my friend Ju and Dick singing praise songs with the band, my awesome pastor Steve giving the introduction, me introducing the 6 people who have been inside my inner-inner circle for 4 years and without whom I would not be alive, Dick and me giving our healing testimony.

I see it all clearly.

I even have food ideas swirling about for this event.

It is as real to me as my family or my home. And I know it will come to pass.

Because Psalm 91 (and dozens more references) promises redemption from all Satan can hand me. And all I need to do is to continue to love my God and trust Him with my whole heart.

Psalm 91:14-16


Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Until you lose a parent, you have no idea how difficult it is to say everything you want to say about them. And I know I cannot and will not and don't have to. Because nothing was left unsaid between my dad and me. We have always shared a very deep dad/daughter bond, and it was a constant in both our lives. Dad knew how I felt about him as a father. I have no regrets of unsaid feelings or words.

My last conversation with him, 6 days before he died, was precious. He said things to me that felt "final" and since nothing about his health had changed, I asked him why he was saying these things. He said, "I think the end is near." 

He knew.

And so our final phone conversation was one I will forever cherish. Only my husband knows what he said and it will remain that way forever. When things took a drastic turn 5 days later, my family held the phone up to Dad's ear so I could say my goodbye to him. His eyes were open and they said he smiled afterwards. He knew it was me. He heard my words. That was one of the hardest moments of my life. Telling your pop goodbye forever. The pain was searing. But he deserved my final words of thanks for being such an amazing dad and my reassurance that he could "go" anytime he needed to.

My dad was a man of few words, but had a strong and impressionable presence in his family's life. He was a husband and father, a Poppy-Ed, doctor, photographer, brother and uncle, reader, fisherman, woodsman, hunter, game player, and all-around intelligent and wise man. He was the best-read man I've ever known.

Dad (Poppy-Ed) with his newest great-granddaughter Hazel Pat. 
He adored his 7 grandkids and 6 great-grands.
Dad was as precise as a human could be. He was a meticulous manager of his expenses and he kept every single tax statement and W-2 form he ever received. He kept up his checkbook with military precision and would stew if Mom forgot to register a check she took from the checkbook. Which was often. (I have suggested to my son never to share a checking account with a spouse. Dick and I never even considered merging our checkbooks. He saw no sense in it either. I think God created husbands and wives to share many things, but not checking accounts!)

Dad was honest as the day is long. If there is anything honest in me, it is because I am Ed's daughter. The sense of honesty was so instilled in me that when, after the first year of Dick's and my clinic's opening, we owed one-cent to the IRS, I insisted we write the check for that amount and send it off to Ogden, Utah. Dad would have done that. Because of him, I give back incorrect over-payments that of course would be delightful to keep, and give honest feedback when asked.

Dick said about Dad the day he died, "Some men are known for their strong handshakes. Eddie had strong hugs. When he hugged you, he really hugged you." I love that, and it is so true. Dad was a hugger and a kisser and never held either back.

I'll never forget the one trip we took alone together. He and mom were headed out to Salt Lake City for a medical conference, and just before they left, Mom broke her leg and could not go. He asked me to go with him and we had a wonderful 3 days together. After his daily meetings, we explored the Wasatch Mountains and ate in interesting restaurants, toured the Mormon Tabernacle, and simply enjoyed being together. Such a great memory.

Was my dad perfect? Heck no. Like anybody else, he could be short-tempered, judgmental or cranky. But in his imperfections, he was the perfect shepherd of our family. He was the right dad, the right husband. He was God's perfect choice for us.

Dad was an extraordinary doctor and one well-loved by his patients. He practiced in the days before "bean counters" told physicians how to practice their craft, and thus, he was known to take a quart of chicken soup in payment for an office visit when that was the right choice, and made many-per-week house calls to needy patients. He was a wonderful listener and hugger with his patients.

One of the words that kept being written about Dad in cards we received was that he was always a gentleman. Yes, he was. We see less of that in today's world.

I called him Sonny often. I have no remembrance of exactly when and why the nickname started, but Dad gave me all the letters he had saved from me during college, and some are addressed to Sonny Boy and Pat Hieb, so it has been a long time!! It was just a little special something that we shared.

I realize that as I sit here, I have hundreds of memories vying for space, and it strikes me as absurd that I am even attempting to write about them. There is no amount of space that would be great enough.The memories are alive and they are piercing right now, but they are sweet, so sweet. 

In my mind's eye I see family vacations where the oft-said, "If I have to stop this car and turn around......." defined his discipline of fighting children in the back seat. I remember duck shorts and posed pictures and our springer spaniel Maggie curled up in bed next to him. I see him skating on the Pipestem River, on the roofs of all our homes, cleaning out the eaves, and bringing the gramas over to our house for Sunday dinners. I see him singing Ho Ho Kravi Do to my newborn son in the hospital and coming to my cabin to put up tongue and groove boards in my bunk house. I see him walleye fishing and I see him driving in his Envoy down to Texas in the winters. I see him in every decade of my life, larger than life in his own inimitable quiet way, guiding, encouraging, loving.

I do not know how to go through the rest of my life fatherless. I have loved him and needed him for my entire life. I do not know what the color of this new path will turn out to be. I miss him so much. Waves of longing for him wash over me two or three times each day, and I know this is normal, but knowing it is normal does not lessen the longing. It will always be unresolved. Death ends a life but not a relationship. The only thing that makes it tolerable is knowing that I will see him again for eternity.

I will end here with my eulogy to my dad:

Like my father, I am a writer and not a speaker. I will say more about my dad on my blog because these spoken words do not come easily.

When I was little, the Kulm relatives called me Little Eddie. Apparently I looked very Hiebish as a toddler.

Today I am the child who bears most of my dad's characteristics:
-his short left leg
-his introverted personality
-his preference to reading any book over going to any party
-his anal precision keeping a checkbook
-his need for a clean car
-his attempt to live out the motto "less is more"

But I have more in me than Dad's passion for great novels and his distaste for messy car interiors.

He is in the bone of my spine, keeping me pointed true north.

He is in my blood, coursing through me with life-giving support and encouragement.

His voice is in my head, whispering ever-present wisdom.

My dad is in every beat of my heart.

This Little Eddie was loved by her dad more than any girl deserved to be loved, and he blessed my life beyond measure.

Edwin O. Hieb
Forever in our hearts