Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

What Next?

Now that chemotherapy is done, the big question is: What next? Well...tomorrow, July 27, I will have a PET scan done in Dallas. Dr. M has heard my concerns and agreed that every other scan on my new imaging schedule (every 3 months) will be a PET. The technology is more sophisticated, the results are more reliable, and the testing is much easier on me than the conventional CT scan. My insurance company is unhappy, but that's OK. Sorry, Aetna.
Then, on August 2, we meet with Dr. M. He will give us the results of the PET scan and make his recommendations for what to do next. We fully expect the scan to be clear--if it's not, then what good has all this chemo done?--but the expectations for the future are uncertain.
Of course, I am asking God for healing, as I have done every day for the last five months. I believe that God can remove all traces of this disease from my body, and keep it away. But if there's one thing I've learned through all of this, it is that God can still show Himself through me--regardless of my circumstances--if I will simply step aside and allow Him to work.
More of Him, less of me. Will you pray with me?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Letter to My Son

Dear Goliath,
I woke up super early this morning, unable to go back to sleep, because you are weighing so heavily on my mind and in my heart. There has been a change in you in recent days. It's not necessarily a bad change, but I can sense a true shift in your attitude about many things and just in your being. With the exception of one rowdy backyard swim session with your brothers (what must our neighbors think of us?!?), you have been quiet--VERY un-Goliath-like. You've been pleasant and compliant--not that you aren't usually delightful, but let's be honest: you typically don't think twice before loudly and passionately sharing your opinions. About everything.
So my mom senses have been on heightened alert. You're not running fever. You don't have a rash. You are sleeping well at night and eating well during the day. You assure me that you feel fine. But as I've asked you more pointed questions, the answers have become a little more jumbled. At bedtime a few nights ago, after we'd said your prayers together, I asked you simply if everything is OK with you (I ask that often, hoping that in a few more years when you've morphed into the dreaded teenager, that we will have established good communication and you will know it is fine to tell your old mom anything.). You were silent for a moment, and then you said, "Mama, are you going to feel better tomorrow?"
This last round of chemotherapy has been beyond miserable. For all of us. I now know why so many patients quit before they can finish the regimen: it makes you feel like you'd be better off to just let the cancer have its way with you. I have done everything I could think of to keep you and your brothers from witnessing me at my worst, but I know I can't truly keep you away from what is happening right under your noses. The only way to do that would be to keep you away. Period. And none of us, most of all me, want that.
You have been so tender and gentle with me. Although we haven't really discussed it, you know that I am suffering. I know you know, because I could feel the compassion in your 8-year-old hands when you helped me up off the floor after our Uno game. I could hear the concern in your voice when you asked if you could get me anything. I could see the worry in your eyes when you came in the bedroom to check on me. And I could almost reach out and touch the longing when you curled up beside me on my bed yesterday--a longing for better days and a normal, healthy mom.
Over and over again, I have prayed for you. Long before The Sickness invaded our happy home, I was asking God to draw you close to Him. I have prayed that you would have an understanding of who He is and what you need, and that you would learn to love Him and walk with Him. With my diagnosis, my prayers expanded. I began asking God to protect your mind and your heart from anger and bitterness, and to give you wisdom beyond your years so you would still be able to seek and find Jesus. I feel like now you are at a pivotal point in a journey you may not be fully aware you are on. You have tough questions that prick my heart. You are certainly justified in asking them, but it makes me angry that the innocence of your childhood--what Daddy and I have wanted so much to preserve and protect for you--is scuffed up by such a hard, unfair thing. I feel so sad when I think that when you and Little Middle and Baby grow up and look back on being little boys, your memories will always be marked in some way by me being a cancer patient.
But even that, sweet son, is not beyond God's control or out of His reach. The two things I tell you repeatedly about God--that He is good and that nothing happens to us without Him knowing and caring--don't really fit for you right now. Honestly, they don't really mesh together for me that well, either. BUT..."I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God." (Romans 8:38-39) Not cancer. Not fear. Not broken routines and uncertain futures. Not questions. NOTHING can separate you from the God who made you so well and loves you so much.
One more thing, Goliath. Every night, when the house is still and quiet, I sneak into your room. I make sure you are covered up, and I breathe a prayer of thanks that I got to be your mother. God could have chosen anyone else for you (I'm sure sometimes you wish He had!), but He picked me. I sometimes still can't believe it. I know I'm not perfect, but if love alone could make a good mom, I'd be the best on the planet. Never, ever doubt that I love you. I promise that I will always do my best for you, even when I'm not sure what the best thing is. And I promise that I will continue to teach you about our good God, and I will "...pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God." (Ephesians 3:18-19)
And to answer your question from last night, YES. I would love to spend some more time with you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An End in Sight?

The one thing I am wishing for this morning is that there is an end in sight. An end to the treatment, an end to the sickness that keeps me hidden in my darkened bedroom. An end to this terrible illness that has taken over our lives.

Tuesday was Chemo #6, the last one in a rigid protocol of treatments that many women are unable to complete. Knowing this, I feel slightly proud of myself and tremendously thankful that I was able to see it through to the end. The stamina it took to finish did not come from me, but from the power of God that was granted to me through intercessory prayer.

The effects of #6, however, are by far the worst I've dealt with. I am SICK. I have zero energy or motivation to try anything. When the boys come in to see me, it is as if I am divided into two moms: the best part of me wants to snuggle with them and reassure them; the worst (and most honest, hidden) part of me wants them to just go away because I simply CAN'T DO IT. I am unable and unfit to be the mother they need me to be right now. If you know anything of my heart and my affections for those 3 little cowboys, you are able to recognize the enormity of that admission.

The only thing that truly seems to make these days bearable is to sleep my way through them. I am on a constant cycle of sleep-inducing, nausea-reducing drugs. I slept my way through most of yesterday, and plan to do the same today (and tomorrow...and maybe even the next day). I have always thought that it would be the easy way out, and have hesitated in previous chemo rounds to sleep around the clock. This time I honestly feel like I might not survive if I have to be aware of how badly I really feel.

This pity party is enhanced by something we learned during chemotherapy on Tuesday. The term "maintenance chemo" has been tossed around in front of us previously, and I finally got up the nerve to ask Nurse Stephani about it. Of course, the final decision will be made after I have a PET scan and meet with Dr. M next month, but Stephani gently communicated that it is a very real, and highly likely, possibility that I am not done with chemo. To be fair, maintenance chemo will not be anything like what I am currently going through. It would most likely be a Taxol cocktail, administered 1 day a week for 3 weeks, then 1 week off before the next round. Two things that prick my heart: 1) A new Taxol protocol means that my hair will not grow back anytime soon, and 2) I just want to be DONE. As long as my name is still on a blue folder (for patients actively receiving treatment) in Dr. M's office, I am in a sad place.

"Relent, O Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants..." Psalm 90:13

From the beginning, I have tried to make it a point to look for things to be thankful for. That seems much harder to do during these dark days, but here are a few things that are happening RIGHT NOW that make my heart smile:

1. My mother is sitting next to my chair, reading over my shoulder. She has been here through every treatment, taking care of my household and my boys while I am unable to. I am thankful.

2. I can hear the sounds of my three boys playing and laughing together in the other room. I am thankful.

3. My husband is in his man-cave/office working on a project for a job that we have been unsure he would be able to keep at times. I am thankful for steady work and God's protection of his job.

4. Even when I don't feel like it, the knowledge that is rooted deep in my heart tells me that my God is faithful and is in control of all things. I am deeply thankful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Day We've Been Waiting For

Jenny's Wedding

I have spent the last three days reveling in the precious memories of my sister's wedding. Oh, friends, it was everything we wanted it to be and so much more!

It was hard for me to pick just a few pictures to post, but I whittled it down to some of my favorites. Bear with me while I let the pictures speak for themselves.


Mommy and her cowboys, waiting for the wedding to start.

Goliath and Little Middle walked Nana down the aisle; Baby was the ring bearer.
I could not have been prouder (or more thankful...whew!)
of the way they took their "jobs" so seriously.

Jenny's cake--amaretto cake with raspberry filling.

Howie's UT Tower cake--chocolate with peanut butter filling.
He's kind of quirky.

The design of Jenny's bouquet included rings belonging to all four of our grandparents
as a tribute to them and in recognition of their long-lasting marriages.

Here I am with my grandfather Buck...


and Gran. I LOVE them!

My Brother and his Other--looking mighty fine!

Caroline, me, and Rachel--my besties!

Dancing with my love.

Mom and Dad dancing the Cha Cha Slide. YES!!!

I shared a number of dances with these handsome guys, including "Shout" and "Smile."
When they weren't dancing with me, they were dancing with each other!

All that partying wore Goliath out!
He found the perfect napping spot under a table.

Great wedding...tired boy.

The wedding ceremony itself was absolutely beautiful. It was extremely meaningful, much more so than the average "'til death do us part" service. My brother and I were honored to be included in the program. Phil read this Scripture that Howie and Jenny picked out:

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:12-15

When he was done, I offered some Words of Hope that came straight from my heart. I will share with you what I said at the wedding, because it is the best way to sum up what I feel about my sister and her new husband:

Jenny and Howie, you only have to look around this room to see the evidence that you have touched lives and are well-loved. My heart is full of joy and hope tonight, and I know I am not alone in wanting to share it with you.

I hope that you will strive every day to put each other first. I hope that compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience take root and grow deep in your marriage, so that you are able to honor and cherish each other every day of your lives.

I hope that you will make it a point to have fun together and seek out joy in all the little details of your lives. I wish for your home to be filled with tremendous laughter and happiness, and that you will take time to simply enjoy being together.

I hope that you, Howie, will be the strong leader in your household that God made you to be. I hope that you will seek Him diligently by studying His Word, and that you will faithfully pray for and with Jenny. I hope that you will be tender with her, always remembering that she is the greatest treasure that God has given you.

I hope that you, Jenny, will be the loving, caring wife that God made you to be. I hope that you will encourage and support Howie in all that he does, and that you will faithfully pray for and with him. I hope that you will bring as much joy and delight into your new home as you have always brought to ours.

I hope that the difficult times you face--and you will face them--will make you stronger. I hope that as you weather the storms of life together, that you will hold fast to the promises that you will make here today, and that you will come to realize the sweetness that “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do we part” can really be.

I wish you a lifetime filled with grand adventures, unwavering love, unshakable faith, and boundless joy. You are both so very loved.

Confidential to Jenny: I could barely contain my joy on Saturday night! What an amazingly magical wedding it was--everything we have talked and dreamed about for all these months. Thank you for asking me to stand with you on your day. It was my absolute privilege to be beside you as you committed your life and your love to Howie. I am so very proud of the lovely woman you have become, both inside and out. You deserve every happiness, and I will continue to pray that God would grant you favor as you open this new chapter of your life. I love you!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Night Before

My sister is getting married tomorrow. She is happy, and I could not be happier for her.

But tonight I cried.

We got our nails done. We went to the bridal luncheon. We had the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. She absolutely glows with excitement and happiness. I am thrilled for her!

But I still cried. I cried because I am tired. I cried because things will never be quite the same and I hate change...even the good kind. I cried because I remember the night before my own wedding day, and I wish I would try harder to recapture that feeling. I cried because my eyelashes are falling out, courtesy of chemotherapy. Because everyone keeps saying how much Jenny and I look alike, and I'm proud because I know it is true. Because I want to be healthy and whole, but I'm afraid that might never happen. Because not everyone has what I have, and I am grateful. Because my heart is full of love, and hurt, and longing, and more love.

When I wake up tomorrow, it will be Jenny's wedding day. I know I will never forget tomorrow...but I don't want to forget tonight, either.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bachelorette Party

In less than a week, my baby sister is getting married! To help her celebrate in style, her friends and I threw her a bachelorette party. The party was classy, but still very fun--just like Jenny!

Ready to go!

First stop: The Mad Potter. We rented out their loft space and spent a couple of hours painting pottery. Some of us have artistic talent (Hi, Ashley!). Others of us, well...don't.

Seester's masterpiece will be functional and look pretty in her new bathroom.

Next stop: Hotel Sorella at CityCentre Houston. This hotel was fabulous!!!

SISTERS! Jen and I will officially welcome Chelsea to our sisterhood when she marries our brother in September, but we love her so much already!

My seester, the bride-to-be--all gussied up and ready to go out.

All of us ready for a night on the town.

Everyone fit nicely in my "bus" to go to Escalante's.

After a tasty dinner with some of the best Mexican food in Houston, we headed back to the hotel. In the parking garage, I parked next to this car. I guess Hurricane Alex caught this driver off guard, because he had do-it-yourself windshield wipers: a washcloth secured to the wiper with a hair band. Classy.

Ready to open presents! She glows with happiness, doesn't she?

After the gifts, we enjoyed live music in the hotel's lounge. We didn't much care for the honky-tonk band that was playing, but it made for great people-watching!

Back in our hotel room...Game Time.
That's all I have to say about that, because this is a family-friendly blog.

These girls, most of them 10 years my junior, are SO FUN and love my sister SO MUCH. We laughed a lot, and stayed up really late. This mama hasn't been to bed at 2 a.m. in a loooonnng time.
The damage the next morning. Yes, we cleaned up before we checked out.

Needless to say, I needed a nap on Sunday afternoon. I slept for two hours, but there was no more rest for the weary, because Sunday was another important day. My daddy was born on the 4th of July, and we celebrated him with a special dinner and family party!

Dad with his golf cake. He's the cutest!

I headed back toward home early Monday morning. On my way out of town, I stopped and visited with my grandparents. I felt so at home and comfortable sitting in my Gran's garden room, chatting with her for two hours during a summer rainstorm. Then, I drove 15 minutes to see my Buck and Grandmama, and found this waiting for me:

That, my friends, is a legacy on a plate.
Look all the world over and you will not find better fried catfish. YUM.

I'm off now to put in another load of laundry. We are headed back to Houston in a couple of days for THE Big Day! Wedding pictures to come...

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Tonight during dinner Little Middle and I were playing the Opposites Game. It's a favorite around here: I say "up," he says "down." I say "white," he says "black." You get the picture.

After a few rounds, I asked him, "How are you and me opposites of each other?"

He said, "Well, you're big and I'm little." Right.

"You're a girl and I'm a boy." Uh huh.

"You're a grown-up and I'm a kid." Yes!

"I have hair and you don't." Ouch.

All the bravery and good humor in the world can't change the truth. And sometimes, the truth really hurts.