Friday, August 31, 2012

Trusting in His Riches

"Should I really spend $18 on groceries?" I thought to myself as I walked through Target with a friend and Talitha. Here I was, pretty much not spending money on anything other than the essentials and I was buying groceries again, which was another trip that caused me to go over-budget in the grocery category.

I've recently received lots of tips on how to save money at the grocery store, especially this one: plan meals throughout the week and then only shop for the ingredients needed for those meals. Well, I've been shopping the "buy what looks good and I'm hungry for now" way for so long that it's pretty tough to change that seemingly ingrained habit. Yet the Bible and my husband have been asking me to repent (or turn in the opposite direction) from overspending in any category on the budget.

Repentance in the little things is the hardest of them all. I look at all the small, seemingly insignificant requests made by my husband each day. And yet, if I do not do them (e.g. make his lunch, keep up with the housework, take care of myself and the baby, enjoy myself, read my Bible daily, stop spending money, etc.), I have not honored God by not respecting what my husband is attempting to lead me to do. Marriage is a picture of the church - Jesus as the Bridegroom and the church as His bride. But Jesus doesn't demand, he speaks in plain language and wants nothing more than for us to know he wants to love us with an everlasting love. This love has boundaries, otherwise, as James MacDonald says, "If we choose to sin, we choose to suffer." I do not want to sin, or do the wrong thing because it would grieve the heart of my husband who loves me so much and wants me to have what's best. I look at how Ryan's Cancer has caused me to repent of sinning against my Husband by not honoring him in the little things.

Ryan's Cancer has also caused both of us to repent of the sin of boasting about tomorrow. The Bible says in James 4: 13- 17:

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it,to him it is sin.

In response to this particular passage, Barnes' commentary says:

"All such rejoicing is evil - It is founded on a wrong view of yourselves and of what may occur. It shows a spirit forgetful of our dependence on God; forgetful of the uncertainty of life; forgetful of the many ways by which the best-laid plans may be defeated. We should never boast of any wisdom or skill in regard to the future. A day, an hour may defeat our best-concerted plans, and show us that we have not the slightest power to control coming events."

I do not have, as Barnes and the Bible says, any control over an uncertain future. And when I think that I do, like when I rest comfortably in the numbers in my bank account, I am sinning against the very God who wants to help me trust Him regardless of my circumstances. I've read many stories of people who, like Peter Grandich or Dave Ramsey, had millions of dollars, then lost all of it, only to turn around and run toward the One, True living God. As Proverbs says, "Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches will certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven." This lack of control over finances and the future points me to trust the One who knows everything and wants what is best for me, even if it does not mean having the very things that I value the most.

What on this Earth do you hold on too tightly to and need to let go of, even if it means you never get to keep it? How do you need to repent and turn toward God?.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Doctor's Orders

"Ryan, we cannot do chemo today," Eloise said. "Your white blood cell count - the ANC and your platelet counts are too low." A look of disappointment washed over Ryan's face. I was pretty bummed about it too, but sadly all I could think about was the lunch I'd made hastily before we left in the morning. "Oh, well I guess our lunches weren't needed," I said. Ryan gave me a funny look and said, "I've been fasting all morning - I will eat it on the way home!" Eloise left the room and Dr. Lim returned.

As Dr. Lim started typing on his computer, I laughed to myself as I thought about the question he posed to Ryan before he started to examine him. "Ryan, did you work 50 hours a day last week?" he asked with a serious look on his face. I was beginning to understand that Dr. Lim joked while looking very serious, something I often did when I was teaching in my classroom. I was learning to appreciate Ryan's doctor in a new way. As he typed, we started to talk about church and prayer. "Dr. Lim, a lot of people are praying for Ryan," I said as he typed in a refill for one of the many prescription medications Ryan must take now. "Prayer is the key to healing," he said in response. I pondered the irony that a doctor would say that, but the truth of his words rang in my ears.

We went home without chemo and sadness permeated our home, clinging to our clothes and conversations. We wanted it to go away as we took a much-needed nap and later in the evening ran errands together, but it stubbornly remained. I held onto the truths of the Bible as a child holds tight her teddy bear and felt healing from the prayers of others. "You told me it's going to be alright, whichever way it turns out," I reminded Ryan. "You also told me not to waste my time being said because we are together now," I reminded him. I was grateful that God had strengthened me for a time such as this, to balance out when Ryan has been strong for me.

The next day nothing had changed. I took Talitha to her six month check up, which marked the time for how long Ryan has been diagnosed with Cancer.  I remembered meeting Talitha's pediatrician when I was in the hospital after delivering her as though it were yesterday, where Ryan was so sick he could barely get out of bed. As we were leaving her appointment, her pediatrician, Dr. Hill, told me she is praying for us. Later on, my mentor called me and encouraged me with prayer. Had I already forgotten what Ryan's doctor had said?

As I sat praising God for all that He is doing in our lives, I thanked Him for being there for us as we faced the challenges that lie ahead. And I offered up some simple prayers, grateful that we have one more day to spend together as a family.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

But God...

When I woke up this morning after a sleepless night of worry about the future (yes, exactly what I am *not* supposed to do), I was excited about the day's events. First I had some 'girl time' with a friend who should have written me off permanently for offenses too grievous to elaborate about, but instead chose to forgive me BIG TIME and walk with me through the hardest time in my life. Then, Ryan was going to come home from work early to go on a date with Talitha and I to see Pastor James MacDonald preach The Vertical Church Tour message at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA. We have not gone on a date in a long time and I was so extremely joy-filled that I could not contain myself! It was looking to be like a day unlike any other -- and it was!

My girl time was precious, not just because we went to Starbucks, but because we had the kind of heart to heart conversations that only happen when you spend time with someone you really get along with in person. Afterwards, we ran errands, chatting about everything from married life to what God is doing in our lives to grow us to be better Christians.  Most of her friends think she is nuts for allowing me back into her life, and yet she points to what Jesus says: "Forgive others, just as God forgave you." I am blessed beyond measure that she lives out her faith in tangible ways that really cause people to pause and scratch their heads as they look at her example of how Jesus would respond. The time flew by and before I knew it, she had to go.

Then Ryan and I jumped into the car with Talitha and zoomed over to Harvest. It was thrilling seeing the three shiny tour buses, all their gear spilling out into the crowded parking lot and the amazing people of God from Harvest Bible Chapel who made the trip from Chicago to Riverside. The church was buzzing with excitement and I was enthralled with the people's hunger for God's word to be preached and lived out. I was given my own opportunity for forgiveness and thankfully it came quickly -- much more quickly than it did in the past. And just as I finished my prayer, the lights dimmed as Pastor Greg Laurie gave a short introduction, and the worship began!

The melodious riffs from guitars, combined with compelling vocals and other musical sounds from the gifted musicians on stage filled the auditorium with adoration for the living God. Pastor James preached a message on the failings of the current church in America and how we need to change in order to become better followers of Jesus. The message tonight was all about a need to stop being so stubborn and to start changing in the ways God is attempting to get you to change. I have been listening to Pastor James' teaching a lot lately, and even though I completely agree with him, I was shocked at just how stubborn I was being in rejecting the lessons God has been trying to teach me through Ryan's Cancer. "Okay, God," I said to myself at the end of the message. "I give up my rights to have the future go only my way. Please teach me what you want me to learn."

The first five minutes after everyone filed out of church, God led me to share our situation with others to pray for Ryan. I shared it with people on the way into the sanctuary too, but I have been afraid to do this recently, because I worry that I am asking too much, or that people would be annoyed with my prayer request. But after some encouragement from friends earlier today, after the service was over I felt like talking to as many people who would listen. WOW am I glad I did because our Big God knocked my socks off!

Several people from Harvest prayed for us, both the Riverside Harvest and the one in Chicago.  We were able to share our story tonight repeatedly with an usher, many pastors, some of the worship team members, and others from both churches. The common question that we've had to answer both tonight and within the past few weeks has been, "What is Ryan's prognosis?" I respond by saying, "Well, if you look on the internet, it says only 2% of people with Stomach Cancer live to 5 years. But God doesn't deal with statistics, so we aren't worried about that." Andi, the worship team leader (i.e. band member) from Harvest Bible Chapel who is originally from London said to me with his cool British accent, "I like what you said. But God... You know, that is all throughout the Bible, and I don't think you realized you even said it." I shook my head no.  He looked intently at Ryan and said, "That is a word for you, "But God..."" Ryan responded by saying, "Yes, I have Cancer. But God has been doing amazing things in our lives. You can see how much he has changed us and how he is working through our circumstances." Hans, the worship team leader from Harvest Christian Fellowship told us about a woman he knows who was told by her doctors she was going to die from her Cancer, but is still alive 15 years later! We were extremely encouraged by the prayers and conversations we had with so many humble, godly people.

As we walked away, I felt as though I was glowing or walking on Cloud 9, or both! I was thrilled that the people of God banded around Ryan and prayed for him right there on the spot AND vowed to pray for him again. I was excitedly discussing this with Ryan as we were walking towards our car when I heard some noises coming from the last trailer behind the third bus. I decided this was a true opportunity for encouragement because it would mean some "behind the scenes" people who are an integral part of Pastor James' ministry. "Hey thank you for all your hard work!" I said to the two people inside, stacking boxes. "I want you to know we have been praying for you, even though you are just stacking boxes, you are part of the people who make it all happen!" "You want to know what's funny?" the man asks me. "What's that?" I ask. He says, "I was just complaining to my Mom about stacking all these boxes again - then God gives me encouragement to keep going through you guys!" This was another huge blessing of seeing prayers answered, even about small, everyday things.

I told them about Ryan and we introduced ourselves. At the end of the conversation, Tony pointed to his Mom Rochelle and said, "Oh, I didn't want to tell you this to discourage you but we actually lost my Dad to Cancer." There was a moment of silence between all of us. "How long did he live?" I asked. She said two years. "It doesn't discourage us," Ryan stated. "Because I know where I am going after I die. It just stinks for her and her if it happens that way," he said as he pointed to Talitha and me. "Yes, that is what my husband always said," said Rochelle. I told her I was encouraged by her. "You're still here, working for God, and you're still smiling. THAT is encouraging to me," I told her. Rochelle's husband died and she became a widow in 2008, but God is still using her and her son to point people to Him. Their peaceful countenances were a testimony to God's provision and grace.

When have you had an encounter where God was teaching you lessons through other people?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener

After struggling with infertility for five years, God blessed us with Talitha. I was upset with the timing of how long it took, giving birth to her after my "absolutely cannot have a child while 35 years old or older" rule, which goes to show that God works His plan, not mine. I was reflecting on how some of my friends got pregnant right away and wondered why I couldn't have that blessing too. That night after stewing over how long it took in addition to feeling sad about Ryan's Cancer, I met a woman who had to wait 11 years for her first child. She had longed for the blessing more than twice as long as me but I found her relationship to Jesus intense and inspiring! Then, God brought to mind another friend who had to wait 8 years for a baby boy, only to watch him slip into heaven two weeks after he was born. Just last night I read the blog of woman who, much like my friend lost her first child within days of her birth -- and relived the heartbreak again a short year later. After reading her story and seeing the pictures, I wept so hard that I could not contain myself. I just could not imagine living any of those scenarios, and was left wondering how I could be so selfish in the midst of the blessings I have.

My mind did not stop there, though. I thought about the friend whose first child has autism, as well as my own mother who had my brother with Down syndrome at age 26, before having me. I also thought about the parents who have had to bury their adult children, like Pastor Greg Laurie's son who died in an auto accident at age 33, or a family friend who watched her severely disabled daughter die from a stroke at age 38 after a lifetime of caring and providing for her. I also reflected on the children I taught as a substitute for one day many years ago, where every child was barely able to move because they had a Traumatic Brain Injury. All of the children in that room had been born "normal" and now would lead life as someone who had become severely disabled for one reason or another, unable to live without the minute-by-minute care of someone else. I also pondered the parents who longed to have children but could not. My mind was spinning.

It all came crashing down on me at that point because two stories in particular made my heart very heavy. The first was the tragic thought about parents who had to deal with children who got sick with Cancer, like Pastor Britt Merrick's five year old daughter Daisy.  Now at age eight after being in remission three times, her family was told it came back again. In this midst of his trial, Pastor Britt encourages others to hold fast to God with their faith because God is faithful and trustworthy. Numerous people have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior because of his daughter's Cancer and the family's response to it. (To read more, click here or here). Would this have happened if his daughter did not get Cancer four times? Would he have written the book Big God or been able to speak to the hurt that we all feel when tragedy emerges in our lives? Probably not.

Likewise, there are children who get into accidents and have radically altered lives like the diving accident that left Joni (which sounds like Johnny) Eareckson Tada paralyzed from the neck down at age seventeen. Here was a woman who has been paralyzed for four decades, dealt with daily chronic pain and the need to rely on others literally for her survival, and was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer, but continued loving God while remaining an optimist. From an article in the Christian Post, she said, "Trials are not just assaults to be withstood. No, trials are opportunities to be seized." And with that perspective, Tada said, "Life becomes inspiring, not in spite of the problems and the hard hits, but because of them." (Read the entire article here.) Joni's Ministry, Joni and Friends, gives away tens of thousands of wheelchairs annually, in addition to numerous other supportive endeavors for both the disabled and able-bodied alike. Would Joni have her ministry if she had not gone through the trial of being paralyzed? Probably not. God knew what would happen and now she shines God's glory, as she says, because of her trials.

"I just want our old life back," I said to Ryan, late at night before falling asleep a few weeks ago. "Don't you want that too?" I ask. "Not if it means not being close to God," Ryan says. "Don't you want to remain close to God?" I take a long time to respond as I think about it. "Yeah, I guess so," I say begrudgingly. Can't I have my old life AND be close to God? Isn't there another way? I wonder. No, there isn't another way, I decide. Trials, especially trials that involve children, are meant to teach us lessons about faith, hope, and trust in God in a way that nothing else can. After all, God did not spare His only Son who paid for what each of us did wrong by His death on the cross.

What have you learned from the trials in your life? How have they changed your relationship with God?

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Silver Lining

"Hello?" my friend says as she answers the phone close to midnight. "The baby's crying again and it's the fourth night in a row," I say, forgetting my manners to extend her a greeting. "I know it's late and I'm sorry I am calling right now. It's been two hours and nothing I do seems to get her soothed enough to fall asleep." I am exasperated and close to tears. "Anna, sometimes babies just need to cry themselves to sleep and get out that last bit of energy that they have at the end of the day. She will be okay," my friend asserts. I sigh. "But I want to fix it!" I lament. "She will be ok," she says. "Sometimes you just have to let them cry."

I want to be the best parent I can possibly be. Yet I find myself exhausted and choosing to take a nap instead of reading up on the latest parenting tips or unhappy with myself when the baby cries and I cannot fix it right away. It is during these moments I recognize the frailty of my humanity and I ask God for the strength to soothe the crying - even if it causes me to start crying too! I know I am so imperfect but our perfect God knows what I need and how to comfort me, even when I don't know how to pray because I don't know what's wrong.

Even though the baby cries because of colic, tiredness, or frustration, I know that I am doing the best that I can. I have great friends who have older children - those who have been in the trenches a lot longer than me definitely have great insight. I also have access to numerous parents and older women who know plenty of suggestions from their many years of dealing with kids. And I have Jesus who knows both Talitha and I better than we know ourselves.

"Can you believe God gave me her and Cancer at the same time?" Ryan asks me while holding Talitha on his lap. "God's timing is perfect," I say. "Although it seems like an injustice, I think that giving us the baby at the same time as your Cancer makes you (and me) appreciate her more," I add. "You don't think I would've appreciated her without Cancer?" he asks. "I think God knew what He was doing," I said. 

We have had a few of our greatest moments of happiness while looking at our daughter's cute face and hearing her squeaks of delight. "My brothers [and sisters], count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience," the Bible says. I have discovered that God has given us joy in this trial of Ryan having Cancer in order to endure the character building taking place. I am very grateful for the beauty contained within the tiny package of our infant, her smiles making us focus on the here and now, giving us a silver lining to the storm cloud looming over our lives. 

Although the baby isn't always smiling and sometimes has to have a good cry (and so does her Mommy), all of the parenting advice I have read and received points to a need to cling to my God. He  knows what lies ahead, puts our tears in a bottle, and has a good plan for all three of us.

Saving Grace

Life is short. Just yesterday my parents got into a car accident that could have sent them standing in front of God right away. Instead, they are still here on Earth, pretty shaken up, with my Mom ending up in the hospital with a cracked rib and my Dad at home. My Mom was able to go home after a few hours, but thank God they are okay because it means another day and opportunity for them to make a decision to follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior! Ryan and I pray for this daily.

Ryan, his Mom and I have seen a number of opportunities open up to talk about the importance of knowing God personally that have not been there before, all due to Ryan's illness. And he says he will gladly die if it means that his and my family members and our friends will make the decision to join him in heaven! Would you join us in praying for our unsaved family members now? Anna's parents, Grandma, Anna's Aunt, Uncle & cousins, Ryan's Uncles, Ryan's sister, and any other member of the Burdin/Kline/Waters family who aren't saved yet. We also have friends and coworkers who aren't saved -- please pray for them too!

If you want salvation, please email me and let me know! Or drop us a comment below... I would LOVE to pray with you - so would Ryan - to accept Christ as your personal Savior.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Can't Get No...

"Godliness with contentment is great gain," said Paul in the New Testament of the Bible. I have been working on learning how to become content with what I have, which has been a struggle of mine throughout my entire life. When I was a teenager, I wanted to have a doctorate, make a ton of money (anything over $10/hr please!), and travel the world. But when I did these things, it was never satisfying. I dropped out of my doctorate program after one year because I hated it and wanted to do something else. When I studied abroad in Australia during my college years, I wanted to be back at home with my family. And when I finally started working, every paycheck never seemed like enough.

When I began to believe in God in the year 2000, my priorities changed, but the discontentment was still there. Three years later when Ryan and I got married, I wasn't content with the condo we rented and wanted to buy a house. When we bought a house four years ago, I had to change everything in order to "make it ours." Yet the more we change it, the more I realize that changing all the external things in my life is never, ever going to satisfy the longing I have for something more.

"When is it going to be enough?" Ryan asked, challenging me about six months ago. "After we finish the kitchen and the backyard projects, have a couple more kids, a minivan and do more travelling," I said. "No," he said kindly, "There will always be something else. You need to be content with what you have, as it is."

There it is, contentment. I have been chasing after something that has eluded me during my entire existence. "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have," the Bible says. I've become the closest to being content within the past six months. I have stopped comparing my life to what other people have. Yes, my mother taught me not to do that - but that is much easier said than done! I have started to note how grateful I am for the special moments I have with my small family, even if we are just making Talitha laugh with silly noises and funny faces. I have stopped shopping for things we don't need and I look for satisfaction in experiences with the people I love rather than how much money I spent.

The more I draw closer to God, the more content I become. I know that when I die, I cannot take any of this stuff with me. The more I look to the future, my eternal future, the things like annual family vacations with fridge magnets or shopping trips with Starbucks in my hand become the less important. Deep and meaningful conversations with my beloved husband about how we can grow in our relationship with God take a front row seat in my life now.  I have had many discussions with others about their eternal destination or how they are applying the principles in the Bible to their lives - important things I have not even thought about recently, until Ryan was diagnosed with Cancer. I have never been more satisfied than I am now, learning what that passage of Scripture truly means when it says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

In what ways have you learned to be content? Did you learn this from a young age like Ryan did? If so, please share your secrets with us!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

v10 Pity Party: Wanna Join?

"You know I love you a lot, right?" Ryan asks me as we start to snuggle in bed. "Yes, I do," I say as my heart flutters from the tenderness in his voice. "I love you so much," he repeats.

Today, as I sit watching our baby play with her toys, I reminisce about the conversation I had with my loving husband last night and I am pathetically feeling sorry for myself. Then, as I browse Facebook, I read about single parents who are raising kids alone, military wives who have lost their husbands or sons and daughters to a different kind of enemy, and strangers who have watched their loved ones suffering because of illness. I am disgusted with and ashamed of the selfishness I exhibit in my marriage. Seeing the hurting, struggling families reminded me of the fragility of life, how God in His wisdom and sovereignty makes decisions about how long we have on this Earth (he knows the number of hairs on our head!) and that at any moment, life as we know it can drastically change.

Life has definitely changed for us in the Waters family, but it has been a slow process. Every other week Ryan has chemo and spends the entire week drained of any energy, feeling "off" and wanting to sleep. I am brought back, time and again, to my selfish state. Instead of throwing a pity party, I want to be praising God for another day with Ryan, happy he and I can still snuggle together and share fun times, as well as hopes and fears.  I don't want to be a person who cries constantly at the half-empty glass - I want to enjoy the full half I've been given and cherish it.

Ryan has become a better husband in spite of his illness, which makes me want to focus on becoming better, rather than bitter. In the midst of our struggles, he has read books and articles on how to become a better Christian, a more loving husband to me, and an awesome father to Talitha.  I admire his tenacity, his desire to focus on what matters and reject thoughts about what doesn't. I think back to all the little things he's done for me over our eight years to show me just how much he loves me and smile. I make a decision right then and there to stop being selfish and, as my aunt likes to say, put on my big girl pants and grow up.

"This is really good," he says as he munches on his favorite meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and corn. "You are so good to me," he adds. "Thank you, but I just wish I wasn't so selfish," I say. I start counting my blessings in my mind and begin by thanking God for another opportunity to cook a simple meal and give back to the man who has done so much for me in my life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

v10 Typical Tuesday

Today is a typical chemo Tuesday. We get up early, feed the baby, and leave the house around 10 a.m. We are privileged to listen to Pastor James MacDonald ( preach the word of God all the way to City of Hope. Ryan gets his blood drawn around 11 a.m. when we arrive. After the blood work is a quick bite to eat, then we check in with Valerie. Afterwards, Shavone (pictured below) calls Ryan, takes his weight, blood pressure and temperature, always with a big smile on her face for our baby.

L to R: Shavone, Ryan and Talitha 8/14/12
Then Dr. Lim (pictured below) examines Ryan while Eloise (pictured below) checks Ryan's blood work results to see if he is cleared for chemo. Dr. Lim asks Ryan if there are any changes from the last time they saw him, such as mouth sores or other side effects. Lately, a new question for Ryan has been, "So, are you working 14 hour days?" Praise God the answer has been yes because the last week he was able to do this for a few days! Dr. Lim always smiles when Ryan says yes. We always ask Dr. Lim about what to expect if Ryan starts to dramatically improve. Today's question was this: "Is the purpose of chemo to shrink the tumors small enough to cut out my stomach?" Dr. Lim's reply, "No, because if you cut out the stomach and there is even a little Cancer left, it will very rapidly spread." Ryan is relieved because he wants to continue to eat my meatloaf and he is reassured that he can! If his blood work shows that his immune system is able to handle chemo like today, then he goes to Phase 1 and checks in. We eat lunch together before he receives his chemotherapy infusion in a hospital bed for a few hours.

L to R: Dr. Lim, Ryan, Talitha, and Eloise 8/14/12
Meanwhile, I usually take the baby over to the Spiritual Breastfeeding Center (my nickname for it, pictured below) during the afternoon while we wait for Ryan. Baby T is not allowed in Phase 1 due to the potential infectious diseases. Unfortunately, this means people don't want to be near us because she cries before she tries to nap around 2 p.m. On a typical day I would take her outside to enjoy the beautiful landscape while lulling her to sleep with the movement of the stroller. But today, unlike most chemo Tuesdays, the soaring 100 degree temperature made it just too hot for us to do that. 

Ryan is usually done by 5:30 p.m. Then we hop back in the car, listening to James MacDonald as we fight the afternoon commute traffic. Ryan is usually very sleepy and today was no exception. Today after we got home around 6:30, he went to bed, mainly because the medications they give him at City of Hope make him very drowsy. If Round 10 goes the way that Rounds 8 & 9 went, he will pretty much sleep all the way through until Saturday night (except to get the pump removed on Thursday afternoon), occasionally eating when he feels like it - but not cold stuff - and forcing himself to drink a lot of water. This is a day in the life of Ryan, a chemo patient at City of Hope!

I hope you join me in praying that the chemotherapy for Round 10 does it's job and "kicks the Cancer's butt!"  Please also pray for very little nausea, a good appetite, and no mouth sores. For other, more specific prayer requests, please go to : and be sure to check the top left portion of the blog page as I update prayer requests for Ryan frequently!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Changing Mr. Fix It

I married Mr. Fix It. When I became Mrs. Fix It, I learned how to change or replace various items in our house by paying attention to my husband. After he got Cancer, I got busy diligently paging through the internet looking for answers about how to beat Cancer and live up to my title. I have found numerous survivor stories. They can mainly be summed up like this:
  • I changed my diet/vitamin regiment (stopped eating X and starting eating X) 
  • I began an exercise program 
  • I learned to meditate
  • I found/returned to religion
  • I focused on the positive reasons I wanted to live
  • I learned to forgive people
  • I was a people pleaser and I learned how to say no
  • I disagreed with my doctor's prognosis and focused upon what mattered most
Yet some people did all these things and still did not live! And others did none of these things, and lived! In a nutshell, I came to the simple conclusion that there is no formula, no "drink this magic potion/pill and it will be as you wish." I want to fix something that doesn't have a concrete solution and it is terribly frustrating to someone like me with a Type-A personality. 

In the process of trying to fix my husband and rid him of his illness, God has turned the tables and fixed me in three easy steps:

1) Trust God by reading the Bible
2) Be grateful for each day with Ryan
3) Live one day at a time

Now my focus has changed from the Cancer to our big and awesome God. I hope this is one time fix! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Swimming with the Sharks

I was excited and nervous about my upcoming tour. I wondered where the other people were as I  followed the narrow glass walkway that lead to where the tour would begin. When I looked to my right, there was a glass-covered tank, full of very large, dark green and grey unidentifiable fish in various shapes and sizes, swimming frantically. I was startled to see that there were black sharks swimming with them too! These were not typical sharks that swim around minding their own business, no these were menacing jet-black sharks with large teeth, piercing eyes and hunger pangs. It seemed like there was so much commotion in the vast amount of water that it could not possibly be an aquarium tank. Puzzled, I looked down to realize I was in scuba gear, walking effortlessly through waist-high water toward the start of the tour. I knew I had to go into the tank (or ocean, I couldn't decide which it was) and that I was excited to be there, but I was terrified of swimming with those dark, mysterious sharks that seemed to hone in on me walking on the glass platform above them.  Just as I got to the start of the tour I... woke up. I opened my eyes in the darkness of my bedroom, terrified about the recurring dream that haunted me for the past few months.

I looked online to find out if there was any meaning to this dream and I read somewhere that water symbolized spirituality. A few days later, I asked Ryan about it and he suggested that the sharks were the temptations from my past that surround me. As we talked about the dream, he asked me if I fully trusted that God is good all the time. "How can God be good in the midst of you having Cancer?" I asked. Ryan replied, "God is good all the time, Cancer doesn't change that. Cancer itself is not good, but God is." "Well, I don't trust God in this area then," I said. "You have got to repent (or turn away) from that," he said. So, I reasoned, this is why I wasn't in the water with the freaky-looking sharks and I was only waist-deep in a "protected" area. I would never get in the open water with the scariest sharks I've ever seen if I didn't believe that God was good all the time. I prayed to God that I would change as He guided me to trust Him completely and took the plunge.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

v9 The Big Red Balloon

"I'll be home a little late," Ryan told me on Valentine's Day 2012. "Okay no problem, dinner isn't quite ready yet anyway," I said. I hung up, excited about getting my red heart-shaped balloon that he'd told me last week he would buy at the dollar store before coming home on Valentine's Day. I greeted him at the door, as usual, looking for my red balloon and hiding my disappointment that he didn't have it in his hand.

We made it through dinner without any argument, but he caught the familiar look on my face. "What's wrong?" he asked me. "You told me you would get me a red balloon from the dollar store, even though we are saving money and not getting gifts anymore," I said as I started to cry. "We are going to the store right now, get your shoes on," he said. "I don't remember saying that, but I want to make it right."

When we got to the store, I looked but all the balloons were gone. I told him we should go home and he drove to Albertson's instead. "Pick out any balloon you want, it was my mistake for forgetting," he said. Well I picked out the smallest, most inexpensive balloon I saw. He said, "That's it? That's the one you really, really want?" I said, "It is fine. It does the job. Why, what would you pick for me?" And he pointed to a big red balloon and said, "That one!" And we ended up getting that one.

As the Confucian proverb states: "Expectations are planned disappointments." God used Ryan to teach me just how much my expectations were wrecking my life over the past 12 years and here I was, still being disappointed over a stupid $1 balloon! What's interesting about the big red balloon is that it is STILL up today, almost six months later! I never would have expected that, but I have really enjoyed seeing that balloon floating high in the air of our family room. Yet if I had expected that it would still be in the air six months later and it did not last that long, then I would be sorely disappointed. Thankfully, I expected it to last a few days and it exceeded everyone's expectations to become a "gift that keeps on giving."

Unfortunately, these expectations have gotten the best of both of us lately with Ryan's Cancer. "If you knew then what you know now, would you still marry me?" Ryan asked me the other day. "Of course - in a  heartbeat!" I exclaimed.  Yes, I expected on my wedding day to be marrying someone who would never get this sick and possibly die at a young age.  But I would not be the person I am today if it were not for God using Ryan to change me into a much better person than I was before I met him.   

We also expected Ryan to have a full recovery after 8 treatments and never have to do chemo again. But here we are at the tail end of the 9th treatment, in a holding pattern. Ryan has been really, really tired this time around and slept most of Tuesday, half of Wednesday and most of today, which will probably continue until Sunday. And we never expected his doctor to say he would have chemo the rest of his life, but that's what we heard on Tuesday. Although we now know what to expect, we still hope and pray for a miracle. And hey, if God made something small and seemingly insignificant like the big red balloon exceed our expectations, I bet He is going to do something even more awesome for Ryan's life!