Friday, January 17, 2014

v41 Up in Smoke

"Do you see the fire?" Ryan asked me as we drove to City of Hope for his 41st round of chemo this morning.

We sat without talking, while listening to Pastor James MacDonald talk about peace in a sermon he did late last year. 

Peace in the midst of personal conflict. 

Peace during the storm of chemo.

Peace while in the fire.

                                                      _____________________

As we drove home from the hospital, I started to envision losing everything in a fire - all of my possessions, gone in a moment's time.

Poof! Up in flames. 

Me, standing there, watching it all burn down without being able to control any of it. Then after time, I see myself salvaging what I could out of the smoldering wreckage. But not much would be the same.

I have never experienced a house fire. Nor do I know what it's like to lose every physical object I've ever known. But there are some definite similarities to living with cancer.

There is the initial shock, the unimaginable horror of watching your life as you have known it up to this point, go up in flames, and spending time trying to salvage something from your old life from the mess that's left.

Then, there's rebuilding.

                                                      _____________________

Today marks 41 rounds of chemo for Ryan. It's a fight I just cannot imagine enduring personally. I stand on the sidelines and watch helplessly. I, like everyone else, just want it all to get better - want the fire of cancer to be contained and put out, for good.

Ryan and I have been rebuilding our lives since that dreadful diagnosis almost two years ago. We have made some startling discoveries about what really matters in life. We watched everything being torn down by the enemy of our souls, but learned to rely on the God, described as a "consuming fire," who created everything in the first place.

Rebuilding takes time. 

Things look different than before.

New people enter in.

Life changes, forever.

                                                      _____________________


I've been reading and talking a lot about contentment. My Tuesday Mom's group is talking about it during devotion time. I hear about it on the radio. There's definitely a learning curve and I'm at the very beginning.

But the idea that threatens my daily, personal desire for contentment is the threat of a future fire, or rather a twist in the cancer road.

I now know what it's like to lose the facade of a "normal life" and rebuild. I know what it's like to bounce from chemo round to chemo round and the two month wait to see what the next scan shows. I know what it's like to hold your breath as each page on the calendar turns over, wondering, always wondering. I know how to rebuild after watching my husband endure a year-long bout with depression. 

I know I will be very excited to hit the two year mark a month from now, and will rebuild my dreams past the two years the first doctor gave him at the other hospital.

As we rebuild those dreams, I know we will have to continue to rebuild our lives because the cancer "fire" took away everything as we'd known it before. And as I look back on all our previous rebuilds, we have always had Someone supervising it all.

No matter what, with God as our Supervisor, I know today's and every day's rebuilds will work according to a good plan because:

"...we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Friday, January 10, 2014

Almond Joy

He walked into the kitchen with one of my favorite desserts. He deviously sauntered past me, grinning mischievously as he put it on the island.

"He got you another one because I ate most of the first one?" I asked. He nodded. Then thought he shouldn't have brought it home with him and said so.

"It's not really my thing anyway, you can have this one too," he said.

Although I really didn't need the calories, the thought of letting the dessert collect dust was unthinkable.

At least I waited a few hours before diving in, for round two.

____________________________

"I feel beautiful when...?" the group leader asked us all to share at our church group recently.

 "...I lose weight."

I was convicted beyond measure during the discussion this morning. I thought about how beautiful all the women in the room are, and how I felt like I was probably the only one who felt like I really needed to drop that last bit of post-baby weight, like yesterday.

I thought of my own inner-voice, condemning me when I sneak a piece of chocolate or having a little more of a portion than I should of delicious dishes of delightful food.

Yet, I was reminded by the message from the speaker today: True beauty isn't skin deep.
_____________________________

It's the beginning stages of 2014, and here I am working on Dessert 2.0 with very little restraint while standing alone in my kitchen. (But at least there was some restraint - so it counts as self-control, right?)

I personally need to lose some weight, as I have needed to my entire life. I need to be healthy, feel better, and look better than I do now.

Pure discontentment.

Then I thought about Ryan and his Cancer, how he has the opposite battle.

He fights to keep the weight on. He doesn't want to lose too much and can often lose 10 pounds at the drop of a hat. Food doesn't taste right and sometimes he just plain doesn't feel like eating.

All this talk of food in my brain made me feel like eating some cookies to make myself feel better emotionally. Then, the voice of the Holy Spirit reminded me of my table leader's prayer for me today to "...eat a handful of almonds instead of going for the cookies."

It gave me joy to reach into the pantry, put away the other desserts and put on a heart to follow my convictions.

Almond joy.

Ryan and I have been lead to this place, fighting with food for different reasons in different ways. The Cancer, just like my post-baby weight, stubbornly clings to our bodies as we each try to escape our own personal demons. But in the battle, God gives us Almond Joy, little messages from prayer and God's word to remind us that He is our portion, our strength, and the light unto our path.

We need not fear while fighting the battle of the bulge because, as Ryan's bracelet says: "God's got this!"

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Reminders of Miracles

"Guess who has to go to a job site tonight?" Ryan asked me as he walked into our bedroom at midnight tonight.

He told me he just spent the last hour and a half trying to fix the problem over the phone but couldn't get it working. The customer was down on production and the problem had to be fixed now.

My mind raced. On the one hand I looked at how I could see how tired he was by looking at his face, the fact we were going to get ready for bed and that he has cancer.

Then it occurred to me just how cool it was that he was able to be on the phone so long trying to fix a problem, then actually be well enough to jump in the car after working all day, get a Monster energy drink, and drive to LA and back in the middle of the night.

Clearly, it's nothing short of a miracle.

Speaking of miracles, I look at Ryan's condition lately, and I have been feeling comfortable about his upcoming CT scan on January 28th. For almost two years his tumors have been pretty stable, he looks awesome and people keep telling us they think he'll live. I am praying for positive results, as we've gotten on the previous scans up to this point, and I hope you  continue in your prayers for Ryan to live another 40 years and be able to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy 38th Birthday, Ryan!

"Happy birthday, toooooo yoooooooou," we all sang to Ryan, (pretty badly, I might add) at our dinner table on December 31st.

He was grinning ear to ear.

Birthdays have a different meaning now that he has cancer. He is now 38 years old, but doesn't look a day over 30 to me.

I was glad to coordinate his family coming to visit him to celebrate his big day. He has never been into holidays or birthdays and doesn't care for gifts - it's never been part of his love language.

But he definitely enjoyed the meat and mashed potatoes I made for lunch because I noticed they went away quickly on his plate. He also liked the delicious chocolate cake made by his sister-in-law.

I was excited as I watched him open all the cards and receive small tokens of love, celebrating him living another year. I took many pictures with him under the birthday sign, much in the same way our family did for me while I was growing up. I think you're never too old for cake, presents, and a party.

My family and his are just thrilled he is enjoying life, which includes running the dog ragged with his new remote control truck he got as a Christmas gift from my Dad. (Although sometimes I'm not sure who is chasing who!)

It's nice to be married to someone so content that they would be happy if we were eating mac n cheese and eating at a card table for dinner. Oh wait --

Let's all join in together to wish Ryan a Happy 38th Birthday and pray for many more birthdays to come!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

v39 and v40 How Long?

"How much longer will we have to do this?" Ryan asked me over lunch today. I looked down at the simple home made lunch I packed a few hours earlier. I didn't have an answer.

We ate in silence, for a while.

It's hard having cancer. It's hard not knowing the future. It's especially hard to be young and be going through this.

People don't know what to say or how to react. Most people our age have no idea what it's like to deal with illness like this.

I'm glad about this, I wouldn't want anyone my age to relate. Yet, I find myself wondering why it didn't happen later in our lives.

Why now?

We can definitely relate to our friends who have cancer in their 50's, 60's and 70's. Or even those with another debilitating illness leading to death. But they usually have families with children that are grown, dreams that are realized and plans lived out.

Not us.

It is hard to believe that in two short months it will be two years since Ryan was diagnosed with Stage 4 Stomach Cancer. And today marks 40 rounds of chemo.

Forty rounds of chemo is brutality; it's worse with no end in sight.

                                                            _________________________

I was walking through the rose garden at City of Hope today, reading a quote that talked about healing the body as being useless if it didn't help the soul as well. It made me think of how God connects the two and says...

"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

We will be blameless and whole at the end of our lives as we trust in Him. I know we are told only to concentrate on today, yet it's so hard not to worry about tomorrow's changes in his cancer treatment or fret about yesterday's side effects. I want to focus on the healing of Ryan's body, yet this quote and the Bible both say not to forsake the pursuit of soul healing in the midst of physical healing.

                                                            _________________________

Ryan was sick in 2011, diagnosed in 2012, and lived through 2013. This new year brings the hope of more life, and life abundantly.

We rang in the new year praying with our pastor and several hundred of our closest friends at church. As the clock struck midnight, I asked the Lord (out loud) to take Ryan's Cancer, completely healing him so he can stay here with us another 40 years. Although we face an uncertain future, we walk with the guidance of a God who already knows what 2014 will bring.

Knowing God and His Son have 2014 under control gives us peace as we journey through the third year of Ryan's Cancer.

May 2014 shine God's blessings on your family!