Friday, September 28, 2012

Gotta love kids!

Today as I'm already feeling like my metabolism has screeched to a snails pace, my son raises the tummy of my t-shirt and says "Do you still have X scars on your tummy"?  Before I could answer he says, "No, they are gone.....but OH MY GOSH, YOU DON'T HAVE A BELLY BUTTON ANYMORE!!!"

That's what I get for wearing really high waist yoga pants to make myself feel more 'in control'.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

He Who Began a Good Work in Me

Two months ago, June 1st, my husband and I boarded a plane with very heavy hearts.  We had just finished meeting with a plastic surgeon at MD Anderson Cancer Institute.  This marked the last appointment necessary prior to the planned Total Pelvic Exoneration scheduled for the following Tuesday.  The week had been exhausting for both of us as we met with two Gyn-Onc surgeons, a Rad-Onc, a Plastic Surgeon, a Psychologist, several nurses and the Research Program Director.  We has asked all our questions, gotten answers and accepted that this surgery was necessary for my highest cure rate....50/50 post surgery according to the doctors and my online research.

God had provided us a week-end blessing through the generosity of a family friend.  Billy and I were on our way to enjoy my nephew's high school graduation in Pampa, TX.  While there we would also get to see a lot of family, but most importantly, our children who were 9 and 6 years old at the time. What a gift to hug them and kiss their sweet faces one more time before, what was believed to be, a very long and slow recovery time. 

The day we were to fly back to Houston, our son began to ask many questions and we decided to tell them what was going to happen so that they would not be surprised the next time they got to see us. There were lots of tears for all of us as their little hearts absorbed the news and accepted God's plan for our family. There are certain moments I'll never forget, and the strength through my kid's tears is one of them.  At one point Isaiah looked into my face and confidently reminded me that God lets all things happen for a reason so he knew our family would be okay. Another time my daughter gave me a pep talk through her sobs, firmly holding my face in her hands.  She told me over and over that I was strong enough and my body was strong enough to get through this surgery; that she believed I could do it and just knew that I would be okay.  I cannot deny these moments cut straight to my core and left me wishing I could spare our kids of this never-ending nightmare called cancer.  In the end, after my miracle, I thank God that we shared those moments.  Because of the true fear and sadness the kids felt before, they now know more personally who our God is afterwards.  A God that allows trials in our lives, but holds us up with His strength as we walk through the fire.  A God that performs real life miracles today, not just when Jesus walked on earth.  Mostly, they know, that our God is faithful, dependable, merciful.

"He who BEGAN a good work in you WILL complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Phil 1:6

I didn't know I would be given a miracle when I checked in for surgery at 5:00 am June 5th.  I had accepted that this was my call to suffer with Jesus and that He would use me for His glory somehow.  I often give myself a pep talk out loud when I feel myself faltering.  This morning I walked to the hospital restroom, not even realizing the significance of using my own bowels, the way they were designed to be used, one last time. I looked in the mirror wondering what to pray, what to feel, what to say as I hugged so many goodbye before the nurse wheeled me away. Scripture didn't come to mind. Neither a beautiful prayer nor the words of an old hymn popped into my head.  Nothing but resolution, surrender, sadness.  So with a deep breath, I put out my right hand with my palm facing backwards and closed it tightly as if I were grabbing Jesus' hand.  Aloud I uttered, "Let's go Jesus" and walked out to grab Billy's hand as well.

Many hours later I awoke in a recovery room with a sweet nurse who explained that I had not had the surgery planned.  This should have been such bad news, meaning there was cancer outside the pelvic area and I could not be cured.  The nurse knew that I needed to understand more and explained that they couldn't find enough cancer to make the Total Pelvic Exeneration necessary at this time.  I felt so confused, almost frustrated.  I suddenly saw my doctor and husband practically skipping down the hall with matching smiles from ear to ear.  They stood at the side of my bed and confirmed what the nurse had said. The doctor told me I could go home shortly and I felt like I couldn't think straight.  I had completely accepted and surrendered to the fact that I would awake with a different body and possibly a year until full recovery.  We had an apartment rented in Houston and had prepared to be away from home at least a month.  But, there was no need to stay.  God performed a miracle! Instead of a huge incision I just had black marker indicating where they had planned to make incisions and do plastic surgery.  I had two X cuts where the ostomy bags were to go, but no bags!  The doctor had made no incision, but instead did a biopsy vaginally and actually waited for the results before moving forward....even though he disagreed that the biopsy was necessary at all!  They ended up doing a vaginectomy surgery which should just take 6 weeks for full recovery.  It was more than my mind could absorb then, and I believe it has taken me two months to try to absorb it post surgery as well.  I've felt like I'm living on borrowed time.  I got to see my nephew at the hospital not even 1 day old.  I enjoyed planning and hosting my son's 10th birthday and 4th of July Cook-out.  Through the generosity of another friend the kids and I had an expense free beach vacation.  I enjoyed another nephew turning 9 years olf, and had time boating at the lake with family!  I even rode on a tube with my sister! 

God did allow my cancer diagnosis in November 2010 and all the ups and downs since then, but one thing is true...God has also been faithful to complete this journey with a true miracle.  I started this journey needing to sing to Jesus or read about Him.  I ended the journey with Him so close I could just reach out and take His hand and knew He was going to be in that operating room with me one way or the other.  I have been given the gift of more precious life on earth, but the ultimate gift is eternal life!

"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shouting for Joy!

Official results are in and we are shouting for joy....literally!  Can you hear us????

When doing the surgical procedure, called an Upper Vaginectomy they removed an area 2 1/2 cm x 6 mm.  Of this, pathology confirmed there was only 2 mm of Cancer! The rest of the specimen was believed to be Adenosis (normal healthy tissue) and Fibrosis (A-typical cells that they believed was like hard scar tissue).  They said they went as far to the right as possible without taking any of the rectal wall, and as far up as possible without taking any cervix.  The tumor had been biopsied and confirmed twice by a lab that it was malignant tumor/Cancer so this is amazing news! 

As if this were not enough, the tumor board met yesterday and determined that they could not identify any reason to proceed with further surgical removal OR radiation at this time.  I'm just going to glow little radiation seeds at the airport scanner now for fun!!!

I am in remission and back on surveillance!!!

The Doctor said that after the team leaves the surgery room following a Total Pelvic Exeneration they always feel horrible one way or another, but this time as they walked out they were smiling and all agreed there MUST have been an ANGEL in that room! 

We've had our prayers answered and we know that Jesus was in that room.  I literally put out my hand and closed it around His in the bathroom and said, "Let's go Jesus.  I need you!"  I'm so glad we have such a personal God, because I'm certain he was carrying me down that hall at times.

The verse I claimed when I announced my cancer color  as purple was Psalms 20: 1-5.  I'll be carrying this verse on a VICTORY BANNER and SHOUTING FOR JOY at the Relay for Life tonight at 7:00 PM.  All of you locals can come and cheer on my Cancer Posse of SURVIVORS and I in the Promenade Mall's survivor walk if you are free!  I'm going to finish even if I crawl across the line!!

"In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry.
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem.
May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings.
May he grant your heart's desires
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers."

Thank you God for taking my hand and choosing to spare me from this difficult surgery and the long recovery afterwards.  As all sinners, I am no more deserving of this gift than anyone else.  I'm humbled and grateful for this borrowed time. Thank you for everyone's prayers! Now, go shout for joy too!

Friday, June 8, 2012

‎ Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. 7 The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalms 28:6-7 (NLT)

 After the long drive from Houston with Kristi sleeping in the back seat, we visited the hospital to meet our new addition to the family:  Caden Alexander Preston!  I had to snap this picture on my phone as I saw my Mom holding our new life and my Dad connecting this new life to our restored life!  Kristi had grieved missing this occasion with Katy, and here she is listening with joy to John and Katy tell the story of Caden's birth!

Katy was given flowers in blue and purple:  Blue for having a boy and Purple .....Kristi's color for fighting cancer! 
Two happy and relieved Children!  Aunt Amy, who had been keeping Isaiah and Alyssa, told Isaiah she was running by his house to pick up his bike.  Instead of getting his bike, he found his parents home!!!  The walked in looking very confused and then hugged and held onto Billy and Kristi and smiled from ear to ear.  Thank you God for giving Kristi extended life to raise these sweet children and love her husband!  

Many have been asking about "what's next".  As mentioned before, they told us they dissected the initial pathology for 21/2 hours the day of the surgery and were shocked to find no invasive cancer.  At this point, they took a larger biopsy and sent it for more detailed pathology.  We will hear these results by next week.  The Dr. continued to say there were no signs of invasive cancer which is what they thought was there and would require the radical surgery.  They only found a minuscule spot of a-typical cell cancer and that was removed. They had the radiologist insert radiation seeds surrounding the biopsy spot in the case that cancer showed up and they could treat it with radiation.  Kristi would like people to continue to pray for wisdom for her to know what to do so she does not continue to grow these a-typical cancer cells.  She knows she will certainly be juicing and treating her body with an organic diet.  For those local people that have been offering to help, this requires lots of special shopping and cutting up veggies and fruits and a special soup preparation.  So...starting next week you could start helping in this way, or by preparing some freezer casseroles for the family meals so Kristi could spend her time keeping up with her special diet.

Kristi has been in pain, but is growing stronger and will take back this blog very soon! After all, this blog is really the start of a great book she needs to write!! : )
 Love and Thanks to all of you for walking with us.....Danina for the Family

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And I stand, I stand in awe of you I stand, I stand in awe of you Holy God to whom all praise is due I stand in awe of you.

God asked us to "Surrender All" to HIM as we said goodbye this morning. Mom talked about how it felt like Abraham offering Isaac because the surgery felt like sacrificing your child. Kristi's stomach is marked completely with all the dye and lines of where all the incisions would appear and there were small x's cut with a scalpel marking where the bladder and colostomy bags would be attached. She had a central line in her neck, a tube down her throat and 8 different i.v. type lines in her.  Kristi recollects counting nearly 30 people in the surgical room with two 8 foot long tables completely covered with tools required to complete this surgery (full pelvic exenteration)  And......"God Provided a Ram" prior to the first incision! I have thought about how just as with Abraham and Isaac, God saw Abraham's faith and could have intervened with the ram when he first set out on his journey, or on the walk up the mountain, or prior to putting Isaac on the alter, but He didn't.  He chose to wait until there was "FULL Surrender".  It was like that yesterday for us.  God could have intervened in many ways earlier, but He chose to allow each of us at different levels and in different ways to "fully surrender to God's will and fully trust Him to provide what we needed as we needed it."  God's Glory could not have been seen apart from the painful process of surrender.  How often do we not receive what God has for us (the Ram) because we hold onto some small part of our life, our plans, our control, our Issac?  Full surrender opens our heart and life up to what God wants to do!!   (Genesis 22:1-19)  Below is the process of surrender! 
 5:15 a.m.....The dreaded long walk down the hall to surgery and hugs of love and surrender.  Chuck Swindoll once said, "I have learned the greater the struggle to surrender the greater the surprise". 

Before going to pre-op room!

The Joy of the Lord is our Strength
Kristi laughing at the Oreo Illustration, while Danina is crying and hugging her goodbye for all her siblings.

Isaiah and Alyssa start the day at Aunt Amy's in their
purple blanket and purple jammies....praying for their Mom! 

When the Dr. came to tell Kristi the news in recovery, her nurse had been so excited that she had already told her that there would be no surgery.  Kristi was confused!  Her nurse wouldn't even take lunch or leave Kristi's side until she went home because she wanted to celebrate with everyone that came by.  Numerous people that were on the case stopped by to congratulate her and many who had only heard about Kristi stopped by and read her case file to "find the one" who had been rescued from this radical surgery with only 50% recovery rate.  When the Dr. appeared with Billy they were both smiling from ear to ear, and that is when Kristi knew that what the nurse had said must be true!!!!  She said to her Dr. "Did I get my Miracle"?  He smiled and replied that his wife says that "miracles are a change in perspective".  He worked hard to explain how this could have happened and took full responsibility for the confusion, but we knew the only explanation is that God chose "for His name's sake" to heal Kristi.  There was no scientific explanation.  May God use this in the lives of these Dr.'s and staff. Our family, along with many of you, have prayed that above all God would be glorified in this journey.  We continue to ask this!  This is God's story and we get the joy and responsibility of joining him in this story!
When we left this morning at 5a.m. for MD Anderson we were anticipating surgery at 7:30 and to see Kristi in ICU following surgery around 10 hours later.  Instead, here is Kristi returning home to the apartment less than 12 hours later!  We were anticipating her being in the hospital for 2 weeks, and now she is home!!!  She could barely walk and was in a lot of pain, but she was walking!!

Here is the kid's celebration picture!!  
Kristi feels there are no words for this "gift" and feels humbled that God would choose to do this for her. She immediately asked Billy upon understanding this reality if her family was going crazy in the lobby and if had he called Isaiah and Alyssa.  Billy told her we were really happy, but we were trying to be respectful of others waiting and suffering.  Dad asked Billy if he could turn cartwheels!
Praising God!!!  Mom, Me and Phil and Leona (Billy's Parents) 
God used this day to let us pray together, wait together, read scripture together, and talk about
Who God is together!  "God uses all things together for good for those that love him and have been called according to His purposes" Romans 8:28

I laid with Kristi and heard all her thoughts until she finally fell asleep under her purple blanket!  This was a gift to me, and to you as I write them! 
Phil and Leona came to see Kristi tonight before leaving for home tomorrow!
It will not be long before you get to hear from Kristi.  Thank you for standing with us today.  We feel so loved by so many from all over the country, and because of this......we all experience God in new ways.  We all get to "Stand in Awe and Worship Our God"!
After 2 1/2 hours of sleep last night.....I bet we all sleep really good tonight!
Love and Thanks to all...........Danina for us all! 

The Mountain has been Removed - Mark 11:22-25

Worley preached Sunday on Mark 11:22-25 with my family all present due to Taylor's graduation. He has been preaching through the book of Mark for over a year and in God's sovereignty he was on Mark 11: 22-25 on the exact week my family needed it.  God used Worley's message to prepare us for the week ahead!  We are experiencing the miracle of our family's mountain being removed.  Worley encouraged us in his message to Remember God Faithfulness in the Past, Trust God, Refuse to Doubt God, Keep Asking God, and Forgive Others. Kristi said the night before the surgery, she remembered Worley saying to keep asking God.  This brought to her mind that while she had felt she had to surrender to the idea of surgery and this huge lifestyle change in order to have life, that she needed to ask for healing again!  She stopped and prayed that God would heal her or that He would make her desire line up with His desire.  The 6 of us stood in a circle at MD Anderson that morning and prayed once again ourselves for healing and for God's peace as we trusted in His plan and will.  We are humbled that God chose to answer this prayer as we were surrounded by many walking this same journey of suffering and trusting God as well and were not receiving the miracle that we were.

Dad and Mom have said all morning that we are just waiting for our miracle, and it came!!  Kristi's Dr. just called us into a little conference room to tell us that we can take Kristi home TODAY!  He said that what looked like cancer and felt like cancer appears to not be cancer (last Thursday 2 Dr.s had examined her and told her they both could see and feel the cancer and both felt that it had grown) He praised Mom for insisting that they do another biopsy.  He told us that there was a tiny spot of cancer only at the surface level.  They removed this spot and took a large and deeper biopsy surrounding this area and will have the final results in one week.  He said that today the head of all of pathology was here and overseeing Kristi's pathology which was no small thing in this morning's process.  They had the radiologist place seeds surrounding this area so that if there is need for radiation in the future these seeds will already be implanted. Dr. Levenback said that he had not prepared Kristi to wake up to the fact of no surgery meaning no cancer.  He had told her that if they did not do surgery it would be because it had spread and they did't believe surgery would be curative.  Because she will be concerned waking up to no surgery, Dad asked that Billy be in there with her when the Dr. tells her!  What a way to wake up!  We have Praised God in the Storm and now we get to Praise God with a Miracle!!  May each of you reading worship our God!! Thank you once again for praying in faith for Kristi's healing and for God's peace! Billy couldn't wait to make the call to Isaiah and Alyssa!!

Please watch the youtube link.........It is long but the first half of this link includes so many of the scriptures that have been prayed over Kristi and by Kristi.


We just were called back to hear from one of the Dr.'s.  Billy and Kristi yesterday had told the Dr.'s that because they had so many praying for healing that they would like to request another biopsy this morning prior to surgery.  The Dr.'s  said this is not normal protocol, but they would put it in their phones to remind themselves to add this to the procedure.  So, after 21/2 hours, one of the Dr.'s called us back to tell us that while the outside read had shown invasive cancer, the inside pathology has found no signs of invasive cancer.  They have had the entire team and pathology team dissecting the pathology for 2 hours and discussing the best plan. They don't want to miss anything, but this life deforming and life altering surgery is so extreme he said they were taking their time.    At this time, they are doing an upper vaginectomy to take a broader biopsy and will dissect it at several levels to make 100% sure there is no invasive cancer.  If atypical cells show on the broader biopsy then the radiologist will plant seeds for internal radiation in that area alone!   We should hear the "rest of this miracle" within the next hour!!  What a story GOD is writing!  Thank you for joining us!  We continue to pray that above all God would be glorified and known!
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below;
praise him above, ye heavenly host; 

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


The address is:
Fannin Street Station
8181 Fannin Street, Apt # 2612
Houston, TX 77095

Will update once we have a hospital room. 

"The Oreo"

Kristi has just gone back to surgery.  They are to start at 7:30a.m.  The Dr.'s said we should know in a couple of hours after opening her up if the cancer has spread where they will not be able to operate, or if all can move forward as planned......or better yet that there has been a miraculous change!   As I said my last goodbye to Kristi in the pr-op room I thought God would give me something profound to say but instead I cried and said, "I am hugging you for all four of your siblings and you are the cream in the oreo and we can't live without you".  She started laughing and said, I'm the good stuff!"  I said, "Exactly...and no one really likes the cookie part without the cream!" 
 No middle child syndrome here!  
She was laughing hard and I was crying as the nurse came in and wondered what was going on.  Kristi told her I was saying crazy things!  : )  God is good to give us comic relief and His grace in all different ways!  Mom reminded me that Alyssa "only loves the center of the oreo and how frustrated our whole family has been to find the cookie parts hidden in couches and behind her bed and all over the house over the years".  
God's grace is sufficient.... He enabled my parents, and Billy and Billy's parents to make that long walk down the hall after leaving her, and yesterday none knew how they were going to endure leaving her. 
I know you are praying for many things, but please specifically pray for Isaiah and Alyssa. Much of Kristi's grieving has been as she considers her children.  Amy found Isaiah and Breck on their knees praying in Breck's bedroom for his mom yesterday.  Isaiah understands enough to be very anxious. 
My parents continue to say.........we are trusting God for His Miracle!

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Night Before Surgery........

This is Danina writing for Kristi.  My parents and I arrived this afternoon to join Billy and Kristi at the apartment we have rented near MD Anderson for the month. Billy's parents arrived soon after us.  As seen in the picture, Kristi is wrapped in her blanket that is covered in the words from Jeremiah 17:14 "Heal me Oh Lord and I will be Healed, Save me and I will be Saved. For YOU are the One I praise!".  In true Kristi fashion, she is trying to get down the last glass of "torture" to clean her system out with a smile and a wine glass to make it more festive!

Surgery is scheduled for first thing in the morning.  We are to be there at 5:15a.m. and they will get her started as quickly as possible.  It is expected to last at least 8 hours.  Pray for us as we wait.......we were all joking earlier that we wanted the Dr.'s to give us some medication too!

Kristi had the opportunity to share her testimony with her Dr. today.  When he saw her smiling as he entered the room, he told her that he was surprised she was still smiling with the weight of the surgery before her, and that it was okay for her to stop smiling now.  He said that he felt the weight of not wanting to have to do this surgery.  This opened the door for Kristi to share her story and her faith.  Kristi told him that she could smile because she and Billy had been through so much and God had walked through all of it with them:  Lost their house to a fire, Billy lost his job, she got cancer, she lost her job and 2 days later learned that her cancer had returned.  Dr. Levenback just laid his head down on the table when she said all of this!!!!   Billy told the Dr.'s to make sure they got a good night's sleep and ate a good dinner!!  : )

Thank you for the ways so many of you are caring for my sister and my family and joining us in this journey.  We are touched by the prayer meetings that were held tonight, those of you fasting and praying for her today and tomorrow, the financial gifts that have allowed us not to be distracted by concern for our physical needs while here, and the many notes and texts.  God's grace abounds!

We are trying to go to bed now, but none of us really wants to face tomorrow.   However, the words of the song "I don't know about Tomorrow" keeps coming to mind "Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand.  But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand".   Billy is reading to us from the devotional "Jesus Calling"....He has read the dates of her birthday, their anniversary, his birthday and Alyssa and Isaiah's birthdays.  Each date was so fitting for each person.  What perfect and life giving words!!  God's word is our strength!  His Promises are TRUE!!

We will write and update as often as possible.

"Trusting an unknown future to a known God"  Corrie Ten Boom 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

So far in Houston....

I'm sorry I haven't been able to post here yet since we arrived.  Our son woke up needing to go to the doctor the morning we were to leave so of course we got out of town much later than we thought.  This put us arriving in Houston at 11 pm and yet somehow our landlord was still readily available to "drive by" and get us situated.  (Yay, for blessing #1) After we followed someone in through the security gate of our new apartment and proceeded to park next to her on the 2nd level of the parking garage it donned on us that we were probably scaring her to death.  Billy wanted me to get out, go up to her car and tell her we weren't really following her and she was safe.  However, I saw she was pretending to be on the phone and wouldn't look at us and decided it was better than I get out and get my pillow showing her we belonged there.  Poor girl, I think we scared her to death because she never got out until we were down to the 1st level.  It was then we saw her back up and resituate her car in the parking spot..  I'm sorry, whomever you were.

Our new landlord, Ty, got us settled in our new home.  Here is a cozy little shot of our entryway.  We finally got to sleep around 1:00 am.

We had to be up to make a 7:00 am appointment the next morning so we began Day 1 with a very short night of sleep.  Words are hard to come by to explain the day, but here are a few glimpses for you.

Here I am putting on my "early morning" brave face before meeting with the anesthesiologist.  We learned a lot in this appointment as he took an full hour explaining the entire process from his perspective.  I found this all to be so helpful.  (Blessing #2) One of the main things he said is that they may keep me under anesthetic or at least sedation with a breathing tube for the first day or so after surgery. This will be for my own good to give my body more healing time before I have to wake up, and also to make sure I don't start messing with any of their handiwork without thinking about it (due to the pain meds and residual sedation in my body).

We left the anesthesiology appointment at 9:30, which meant we'd already missed 2 other appointments on our schedule. But we moved on to meet my gynecological oncologist (gyn-onc).  We'll call him Dr L to keep things simple.  Here I am in the waiting room before his appointment.
Our appointment with Dr L required a lot of up front reading about the procedure and the aftermath.  I joked with him when he walked in and found me laying back on the bed that I was just doing a little "light" reading.  He laughed and asked to see what I was reading.  I handed him the packet the nurse had given me earlier and he disagreed with the statement "light" as he brushed his fingers through his hair and sighed.  I smiled like everything was fine, but he knew better.  He said, I see you are smiling, but I know you don't feel like it.  I almost crumbled, but decided to smile bigger as I told him I always smile!  He said he's much the same way, and over the last 36 hours I have seen that he is.  Billy and I have felt very comfortable with him and his wonderful staff.  They have had to put us through some very difficult discussions and exams and yet they have been thoughtful and gentle.  (Blessing #3)

One thing to point out from this meeting is that I will most likely be in ICU for at least 24 hours after surgery so they can keep a very close eye on me.  I will be allowed visitors some, but noone can stay with me at night.  Once I am in a regular hospital room they encourage people to spend the night with me to watch for anything abnormal or concerning.  I will not be able to eat or drink for the first week.  All nourishment will be handling through the IV.  There will be a tube draining my stomach so that all the work they've done in the intestines will have time to heal.  Once I begin eating it will be very gentle foods like jello and broth. I will also have a drain tube for my reconstructive surgery 5-7 days.  My husband is so encouraging through all of these appointments and never leaves my side.  I just adore him.

After meeting with Dr L's team (including another gyn-onc that will help with the surgery, who we'll call Dr C) we moved down to get blood work, urine samples, an EKG and chest x-rays.  All this showed that I am healthy enough for the surgery.  While getting ready for the chest x-ray I looked at myself in the mirror and saw how ridiculous I looked with my shoes and hospital gown.  I thought I'd capture it for a laugh so here you go!

I was getting so tired at this point.  My head was spinning with everything I'd learned.  I really just wanted to go home and put my head under a pillow, but we still had more to do. I'd missed another appointment because Dr L kept us so long.  It was 2:15 and we were getting very tired emotionally and physically.
However, we rushed to the PET scan appointment for our 2:30 check in and they had a lobby full of at least 60 people.  We finally found a seat where we could put our feet up and I thought to myself this looks so much better.  Like things are right in the world even.  (Blessing #4 - I still had a small sense of humor)

They were so far behind that my I didn't get called back for over an hour after my appointment.  It gave us a little time to just sit and process all that we had learned and been through already.  It was a lot for me, but also for my sweet husband.  The Doctors have been very supportive of him as well asking if he's okay and if he has support coming for the surgery, etc.  I'm so thankful that his family and mine will be coming. 

By the time the PET was over I walked out to a mostly empty lobby at 6:00 PM. We had been at the clinic for 11 hours and due to the scan I had not been able to eat for 9 hours.  Honestly, I just felt miserable.  I'm not sure if I am just tense all day listening to these doctors, but I've ended both days with a horrible headache and I cannot take anything for it because of the upcoming surgery.    
Day 2 included lots of make up appointments we'd missed Day 1.  We met with a psychologist, with a research project specialist  (which enlisted me for a 10 year research program) a Wound Ostomy Nurse who marked where my ostomies will go, and Dr L to go over my surgery forms in details with all the risks and the one sole benifit.....Life!  I signed consent and Billy signed as the witness.  It was a heavy hearted day.

Thank you all for praying and encouraging.  I may not always get time to reply, but I am trying to keep up with the posts and texts and emails.  You all are amazing me with the amount of support you have shown.  Thank you so much for loving us through this next journey.  (Blessing #5)

And although I don't have the words for Day 2 yet there is one part I do want to share.  
My PET scan came back showing clear.  This seems confusing, but this is a very good thing because they see no reason to abort the surgery at this point.  They can proceed based on what they have felt, seen and biopsied.  (Blessing #6)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sweetly Broken, Wholly Surrendered

If you've been following along you know that I began sharing about my cancer journey in November 2010 when I was originally diagnosed with he very rare Primary Vaginal Adenocarcinoma. With a huge amount of help from my doctors, my family, friends and even strangers I successfully navigated my way through multiple surgeries, chemo, external beam radiation and internal radiation (Interstitial Brachy Therapy). I gratefully completed this journey in late March 2011 and I was fairly certain this was the hardest path I would ever travel.  In the same way that a hiker stops at the top of the mountain and looks back reflecting over what they just experienced, I too reflected over my experience and wished I had trained harder (memorized more Bible verses), trained longer (had my kids raised before diagnosis) and trained more often (prayed more often, read my bible daily, told people I appreciate them more). My lack of training for this particular trail didn't impact me, because my tour guide held my right hand tightly up and down the trails.  "You will hear your Teacher's voice behind you.  You will hear it whether you turn to the right or the left.  It will say, 'Here is the path I want you to take, walk in it." Is. 30:21  Oh how I've been thankful for my Teacher's voice, for there is no better trail guide than Jesus!

Recovery from this journey took longer than I expected; and honestly I am still recovering in ways unseen. However, after a couple set backs (my abnormal pap and surgical biopsies/scrapes) I finally hung up my "finisher" medal and shared my celebratory pics in December on Facebook and in Christmas cards. I finally felt it.....believed it even......I was a cancer survivor. I willingly became part of this accomplished, amazingly strong group of people. A mighty success; a sad addition to my resume.

Early 2012 I began to feel more alive, more myself, much stronger; so you can imagine the shock when I learned early March that I had another abnormal pap. Just like last November it was an A-typical glandular cell which meant I had to go under anesthetic and have multiple biopsies and scrapes once again. My Gyn-Onc said her antennas were up, but she could not imagine it would turn out to be cancer already. Sadly, the during the out-patient surgery my doctor could feel a hard growth higher in the vaginal wall and the biopsies came back malignant.  We were stunned, knocked off our feet, even paralyzed by this news. I couldn't help but ask God "WHY"? 

Now two months later there are many signs that God is at work once again in my life, even in the midst of more bad news.  Sometime soon I'll share the story of how we've gotten to our decision point, or even better, the proof that God is alive and real in the midst of suffering.  For now, please pray over the next step in our journey with us. 

Billy & I will be living in Houston, TX for the next month to pursue my "cure"!  This was a long and hard decision and the journey getting here has felt steep.  I've settled into the fact that there is a rugged and difficult hike ahead. I'm planning to proceed with the one and only option I've been given....a Total Pelvic Exoneration.  The OU Cancer Institute only performs this surgery twice/year on average whereas MD Anderson performs it 12/year. My surgery will not be common, but my hope for a cure is felt by all cancer patients alike.  Today's suffering is worth it, as our hope is a long lifetime of precious mundane moments

Join me in prayer over upcoming appointment days, great sleeps/steady hands/compassion for surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, counselors, family and friends.
*Wednesday, 5/30 - Meet with 3 surgeons, 2 counselors, blood work, physical exam, PET scan, CT scan
*Tuesday, 6/05 - All Day Surgery

This morning we studied Jonah in community church and we learned 4 good lessons from his story.  I told the pastor afterwards I thought he was speaking directly to my row of weeping people. 

Lesson #1 : God's will is not always the same as my will!  (His is bigger and better.  His will is not to make sure we are happy, but it is to make sure we are more like Him. -  Jonah 1 & Romans 8:28-29a)
Lesson #2 : Being out of God's will is a dangerous place to be! (God will do what he must to bring you back to Him and His plan will prevail. Jonah 1:15-17) There will be thanksgiving when you are in His will.  Jonah 2:9
Lesson #3 : When God steps in and interrupts your life He IS thinking about you! (When God's plan is fulfilled he will step in and help you. Jonah 4:10)
Lesson #4 : Be careful - Learn from God's interruptions.  (We cannot only have faith and love God when life is good.  Jonah 4)

Jonah's journey shows us that God is in control and he cares about every single step we take and all people we meet along the trail.  I pray that as I put one foot in front of the other I will listen for my Teacher's voice helping me to be faithful and transparent so that those I encounter will see God's will in action. 

In the words of a song from church this morning.....may I be sweetly broken; wholly surrendered.

Monday, April 23, 2012

That's Not a Nice Word

For those of us with daughters we're familiar with how much passion a young girl can put into her words and actions.  My daughter is off the charts emotionally, which is amazing and delightful when she's happy or full of love.  She can break your heart in a second when she is really sad, as her whole body shows her sorrow and pain. The issue comes when she is angry, SO angry that you better watch out!  We've had to talk a lot about where to direct her anger and how to have self-control with her words and actions.  Because of these talks she now asks permission to use the "H" word.  I know what you are thinking.  Hell.  However, that's not a word my 6 year old considers yet, but she would like to use the other "H" word frequently.  Hate.  As a parent or caregiver, how many times do you find yourself saying things like, "Please don't say that.  That's not a nice word" or "We don't talk like that.  You need to use kind words"?  In my home, I tend to explain that "hate" is a very strong word and we need to use something more like "we really don't like that".  Lately, I'm breaking my own rules a lot and I'm going to give my kids permission to as well.

I'm sorrowed by the fact that I've let so much time go by since my last blog entry.  This brings me to my knees and humbles me.  I knew I was at a loss for words when I'd begin to write on this blog or in a card, and I would just stare at the empty page. I couldn't form my feelings into a sentence and because of this I have missed a great opportunity.  The opportunity to share who God is and give him the glory that is due Him.  For this I am sorry and embarrassed.  So much time has passed and now that my situation has changed once again I find my words fill this page so easily.  This is so frustrating, but leaves no doubt that Satan has been working on me, stifling my words. This is cause for a new house rule.  Now, we are always allowed to use the "H" word when it comes to Satan.  I HATE SATAN!

Please follow along as I try to get caught up on my story since November.  I think this is a very important process as I can prove that although God is not predictable, He is always good.  Oh, and God HATES Satan too!