Harder Family

Harder Family

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Update 8/26/23: Power of Prayer

 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God I’m Christ Jesus for you.”

Thank you to everyone who prayed for my mom. She is home and is getting stronger each day. The damage to her heart was only in some small arteries around the heart. The doctor said with some PT, it should resolve and get better. We are very glad they went so quickly to the ER. The doctors said that if they would have waited, things could have been worse. Her heart rate was up at 360 when she was in afib. Thankfully, with some medicine they were able to stabilize her. Thank you again for praying for my mom. 

I have another specific, huge prayer request. I found out on Friday from a friend who does medical billing why my medical bills have been so much. I gave her my insurance card so she could look up my plan. I was trying to get an idea what my portion of my surgery may be. It appears that the “insurance” I’ve been paying for the last two years, isn’t really insurance at all. I have been paying almost $1400/month for an “insurance” that only gives me a PPO discount. They will never pay anything for any medical procedures, visits, etc.

I have reached out to our state to see if there is any medical assistance I might be able to receive due to my unique situation. I will be going to their offices on Monday to discuss with someone in person what options might be available. I think my anxiety has been more regarding this than my actual diagnosis. I kept waking up last night with a sick stomach and had to keep praying to give it to the Lord. I don’t know how the insurance sales guy managed to sell me something that doesn’t cover anything. The amount of PPO deductions I’ve received is nothing compared to what I have paid in each month. What insurance doesn’t pay anything? Please pray with me that we are able to find some kind of resolution to get me through November when I am able to switch insurance during open enrollment.

My shadow aka Bo. He always steals Wayne’s seat when he leaves. Tonight Shan captured it with his phone. He was sitting like a human next to me. I feel very loved by this dog.

Meanwhile, this week has been challenging as I adjust to my new diet. The hardest day was Thursday when Wayne requested pizza. I had to drive home with a hot pizza in my car. I wanted a piece so bad, but I held strong and ate my salad. The fermented vegetables have been a challenge too. Overall, I do feel better eating this healthy. I think a lot of it is just mental and you have to have healthy things an available to help make wise choices.

Tonight was one of my favorite meals. I warmed some Siete almond flour tortillas and put hummus, cucumbers, broccoli, and purple carrots on them.

Good for my gut, but I literally chug it down because it’s not my favorite (sauerkraut, fermented cabbage, and mung beans).

My dinner vs Wayne’s dinner. I know mine is more nutritious, but his smelled amazing!

On Thursday afternoon, we received a call from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital about setting up an appointment for Shan Chen to be measured for compression shorts. They had an appointment available Friday morning, so we took it. There was a huge thunderstorm moving through the area on our drive, which didn’t make for a fun trip. It was our first time to this doctor’s office, so we parked at the hospital, only to discover that the office was up the street. The skies decided to open up in us as we were walking there. We ended up running and laughing the whole way. Shan helps make life fun. We had a great laugh as we walked in looking like drenched rats into his appointment. We had over 4 hours of driving for a 15 minute visit. Thankfully, they will mail us his new shorts. 

I have some pretty amazing people in my life. One of my sweet friends researched and found me these two cookbooks to give me some creative ideas for some healthy meals. My family is terrified that I’ll make them eat like me. Joella asked how long I’m going to eat like this and I said as long as I need to. I know it doesn’t guarantee anything, but eating healthy is good for all of us. The motivation of being around longer for my kids is enough to keep me moving forward. 

I feel like getting ready to have surgery is much like nesting before a baby. Projects that I’ve wanted to get around to, I’m finally doing. Micaela helped me reorganize my kitchen cabinets. We also organized all our homeschool materials for the year so it doesn’t look as messy.

Update on Wayne: Wayne is feeling back to normal after chemo. It took a solid five days for him to bounce back. He is doing well at PT and has been taking short walks around the neighborhood. The only downside we’ve noticed is that he is pausing more when he tries to speak. In those moments it’s hard not to worry about what’s going on in his brain. We have to keep taking one day at a time and not allow the fears or worry to bog us down. 

Please continue to pray for Wayne as we bumble our way through all of this. Life is hard! The blessing in life being hard is that it 1) makes us long for heaven, 2) makes us stop and enjoy all the little things in life (even getting drenched in a thunderstorm)…especially time with our children, and 3) reminds us of the importance of sharing the best thing in our life with others…Jesus. 

Please pray that we have opportunity to share the hope that we have with others. It’s only because of Jesus that we can get out of bed each day. With all that we are juggling, only He can give us the strength and joy to face our day and our trials.

The song that has encouraged my heart this week is “Worthy of My Song” by Phil Wickham. I was planning on driving last week to hear him in concert in Indianapolis, but that did not work out due to Wayne’s chemo. One day soon, I will make it to his concert because the songs that he has written (Hymn of Heaven, Battle Belongs, Living Hope) have ministered to me for so many hours as I exercise, drove to and from Chicago, and in the car running errands. Here is part of the lyrics that just resonate with me this week.

And in the blessing, in the pain, You are worthy
Whether You say yes or no or wait, You are worthy
Through it all, I choose to say, "You are worthy"
I'll never stop singing Your praise
No, I'll never stop singing Your praise
And when I finally see Your face, I'll cry worthy
And when You wipe these tears away, I'll cry worthy
Above every other name, You are worthy
I'll never stop singing Your praise

Thank you again to all of you for your faithful prayers. So many days I tell Wayne that I know it’s the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ that are sustaining us. The overall peace in the midst of these trials is pretty amazing! 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Update 8/22/23: Can We Catch a Break?

 Psalm 22:11 “Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.”

This morning, right as I was heading out the door for my much anticipated appointment with my obgyn oncologist/surgeon, my dad called and told me he was taking my mom to the hospital. They actually called an ambulance because my mom was having severe chest pain. She hates going to the doctor, so for her to request to go in, my dad took it seriously. Yesterday, she had hernia surgery. She was in a lot of pain all night and when the chest pain started, she knew she needed to be seen. They found that she was in A-Fib. She ended up spending the night so they can monitor and continue to evaluate her. They need to run some tests to see if the a fib caused any heart damage. A crazy way for the day to start for all of us!

It was amazing, once I arrived at the hospital, I found one open parking spot in front of the building I needed. From the moment I walked into the wing of the hospital, I was treated so kindly and was put at ease. I absolutely love my doctor, Hope Cottrill!! I told her my friend and many neighbors, who all happen to be in the medical field, said she was amazing. After meeting with her, I would concur with their recommendations.

I have been scheduled for surgery on 9/14. God worked all the details out for things that were weighing me down (Wayne’s appointments in Chicago on 9/8, starting chemo 9/9-9/13)…the timing of it all. God fit everything together perfectly. It’s going to be rough (travel to Chicago, Wayne’s chemo, and then surgery), but I know that God will give us the strength to persevere. 

My sister Sarah was amazing today. She took great notes for me while the doctor explained everything from the surgery to recovery. She said that they will do the hysterectomy and also use some dye to light up any lymph nodes that need to be removed to check them for cancer. 

She told me that I am a unique case since I don’t fit the usual patient (based on my age and physical shape). She said many times it is older women or younger women who are obese that usually fit the profile. I was glad I didn’t fit either category-a couple wins for the day! 

Because I don’t fit the typical profile, she mentioned that they will run some genetic tests to make sure there isn’t more going on. Depending on those tests, I may end up having a second surgery down the road to remove my ovaries, but for now her recommendation was to keep them because the risks in keeping them don’t measure up to the risk of taking them at my age. 

We won’t know if I will need any other treatment until after diagnostic tests are run after surgery. 

Now that we have a surgery date, it helps us have a time frame to prepare. After meeting with the doctor, I took Sophia shopping for clothes. She came with me today so that we could get her another allergy shot. Since her doctor is in Lexington, every time we head that way, she comes with me to maximize our trips. So far, she’s doing great with them and is feeling better. Our prayer is that these shots help her immensely with her severe outdoor allergies. Below is when she was tested. Pretty much she is super allergic to every tree and plant in KY!

We also made a quick stop into Trader Joe’s for a few necessities for me and my new eating lifestyle. I found this delicious vegan pesto that I turned into my dinner tonight (zucchini noodles, dried tomatoes from last years garden, and pesto). I don’t think my kids would have eaten this…it was too green!

After returning home for a quick lunch, I headed back out the door to take Wayne to his PT evaluation. We have a lot of work to do, especially since it is more of a neurological issue than even a strength issue. Chris at Resilience is the best! He already sent Wayne home with a few great exercises that I know will challenge Wayne, but also help him. 

We ended the day hanging out at the pool with friends and then watching a movie. After a long, crazy day, I was ready to enjoy a little down time.

My sisters are such a blessing. Between Sarah being there for me today at the appointment, and Rachel coming in for a couple days after surgery, I couldn’t do it without them. They have been there through Wayne’s surgeries as well. I love you both!!

Prayer Requests:

- Wayne: to gain back some strength and movement with his PT. We also have a lead on a possible speech pathologist. Please pray that it works out.

- My mom: wisdom for the doctors to know how best to help her and that her heart has no damage. Please also pray for my dad as he walks along side her through this. 

- Rebecca: peace while I wait for surgery and prepare to be out of commission for 6 weeks. Please pray that the cancer is only contained in my uterus so that I do not need any further treatment. 

- Pray for opportunities to share Jesus with all of the people we encounter through all of this.

- Please continue to pray for our kids!

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Update 8/20/23: Changes

“I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

This morning at life group, the discussion about suffering and God's presence came up. Most Christians would admit that it is during their darkest hours when they have felt the closest to God. I've often wondered why that is true, even in my own life. I think it stems back to our tendency to want to do things on our own. We may say that we are trusting and relying upon God, but do we really depend 100% on Him? But during the dark hours or a terrible trial, we have nothing left in us. It is in those moments that we depend fully and completely on God and He meets us there. Really, He is there all the time, but in those moments we sense His presence and experience Him in ways we otherwise wouldn't. 

I know from experience that what Elizabeth Elliot says above is 100% truth. Even this last week, which has been one of the hardest of my life, I have felt and experienced God's peace and presence like never before. I know that is mainly due to all the prayers going up on our behalf. Once Tuesday rolled around, I felt the anxiety and fears just slip away. Jesus was right there holding me and carrying me through the deep, dark waters. As I shared, He showed up and revealed that He sees me and that He is there. How amazing is that? The Creator of the universe cares so much about me that He not only died to save me, but He intimately knows my deepest thoughts and emotions. It blows my mind. 

If you do not have a relationship with Jesus or haven't experienced this kind of love, peace, or hope, please contact me. There is nothing I would love more than to share what Jesus has done in my life and what He can do in your life as well. He meets us in our brokenness. We don't have to clean ourselves up before we come to Him. He loves you just the way you are, but He also loves you enough to not allow you to stay in that place. He wants to walk beside you and carry you. This life is hard! I don't know how anyone does life without Jesus. He is my source of hope, peace, and joy, even in the midst of some of the scariest, darkest days of my life. 

I cannot explain the peace I have apart from Jesus in me. How else could I face a cancer diagnosis, on the heels of Wayne's terminal cancer and chemo treatments, not to mention raising 8 kids, one who has severe mental health issues? From a human perspective, it is just too much and it is unfair. Believe me, I wrestle with these feelings. I told someone the other day that even though I have had moments of questioning God and being upset with this new trial, along with all the other trials, I chose to set those feelings aside because I know that Jesus has me in His hands. I am confident in who God is and His character because I have studied it in the Bible. Because of that, I can set those things in His hands and trust Him, no matter what comes our way.

Since we have so much going on, I figure that I will try to give an update on both of us to help keep everyone in the loop.

Rebecca Update: I finally received a call from the oncologist’s office on Friday. They scheduled for an appointment Tuesday morning. Some people have asked if I'm going to Chicago for treatment. The answer is no. I am seeing a doctor here in Lexington. The only reason why we drive up to Chicago for Wayne is because they have been his doctors for 8+ years and know his case. In my situation, it is all new, so I will stick to Kentucky for treatment. 

My sister will be coming to the appointment with me to help take notes and make sure that I don't miss anything. I have discovered over the years with Wayne that it is helpful to have someone that isn't the patient with you to help listen to the doctors. 

I have shared before that I love to plan, which has made the past few years so difficult. Many times I have to make plans with open hands, knowing that it may or may not come to pass, like our trip out west this summer to see family. This waiting to see the doctor the past week has been so difficult. I want to know what is coming and make a plan since my life will be turned upside down for at least 6-8 weeks for recovery (from what I have read). It is hard to be patient and wait, but by God's grace we made it through the week of waiting.

Meanwhile, Wayne and I have discussed things that I can do on my part to help give my body the best chance at fighting this cancer and preventing it from coming back.  I mentioned the other day that God put this amazing friend/doctor in my life. She has been studying functional/integrative medicine. I met with her on Saturday for almost two hours to discuss a lot of different options for natural things to use along with traditional medicine. The next few weeks will be difficult as I adjust to this new way of life. I am still doing research to see if there is anything else I should add to my arsenal. So far this is the plan:

*Remove from Diet: this will be a slow transition so that I have a better chance of success

    - Alcohol (easy for me since I don’t drink)

    - Dairy (good thing I ate all the ice cream on our anniversary trip)

    - Processed food

    - Red meat

    - Sugar (reduce as much as possible)

    - Gluten

    - Limit chicken/eggs. 

* Add to Diet

    - Fermented vegetables (will be making my own-thank you to the friends helping me navigate this new adventure)

    - Kombucha (anyone have a scoby they can share?)

    - Frankincense rubbed on my abdomen and taken orally (Longevity:Young Living)

    - Daily vitamin and other vitamins

    - Happy Juice, Mentasync, and seed fiber from Amare

    - Truvani protein powder (thankfully it only has six ingredients that are clean)

    - Homemade Elderberry syrup for my immune system

- Detox tea and greens from Arbonne (as you can tell, I’m not a one company girl. I am trying to use what has been best for me from different companies).

*Stress Reducers

    - Praying/Reading the Bible

    - Exercise

    - Sauna

    - Reading

    - Walks

    - Sit in the sun to get some vitamin D

Making different soups that are compliant with my new "diet" to make life easier this week.

I'm looking forward to trying to make fermented vegetables. We will see how it goes.

Wayne Update: Wayne finished his chemo on Thursday night and has slowly been recovering. This round of chemo was hard on him. He was nauseous almost every day, which affected his ability to eat. He also slept a lot! We know that rest is important for his body as it tries to heal and deal with chemo. 

Thankfully, Wayne was feeling well enough to go to church this morning. I know he always enjoys being in fellowship with other believers. 

Tomorrow I have to call the pharmacy to address a refill issue that we have. The original prescription was filled in Chicago, but I need the refill to be done in Kentucky. Please pray that it is a smooth transition since tomorrow is the last day we have for the one prescription, so it is essential that I get it filled tomorrow. 

Wayne will start PT again this week. I signed him up at a local PT clinic in town so he can at least be working on PT. The doctors would really love him to be doing OT and speech, but our previous place is closed for now. If anyone knows of adult OT and speech in the area, please let us know!

We have just under three weeks to go until Wayne's next MRI in Chicago. It will be a long, busy day filled with appointments. We will start the day with blood work and then a chest CT scan to follow up on a 10mm nodule in Wayne's lung. Then Wayne will have his MRI followed by an appointment with his neuro-oncologist. Finally, we will end the day with a follow up appointment with the radiation doctor. At least we are able to fit it all in one day while we are in town. 

School is in full swing. It will be interesting navigating all of this in the upcoming weeks, but we have already been offered help from other homeschool parents, so that takes some of the worries away. Plus, when it comes down to it, spending time as a family is our priority, especially right now.

I snagged this picture of Grace's travel team (blue team) off of Facebook. They are getting ready to start traveling after a summer of training and service.

I snagged this photo off of Facebook too. Shan serves with the tech team at church as a camera man. Look at his smile! No wonder why he gets tips at Arby's in the drive thru!

Prayer Requests:

Thank you for continuing to pray for our family as we navigate all these different challenges in our lives. We know that God has this and He will be glorified no matter the outcome of any of it. Please just continue to pray for Wayne that he gains his strength back after chemo and as he starts PT again this week. Also, please pray for my appointment on Tuesday. Pray that we get some answers and some dates lined up so that we can make appropriate plans moving forward. Please also pray with me that the cancer is contained just in my uterus so that we are just looking at a hysterectomy. Despite my prayers for that, I am trusting that no matter what, that God will be glorified through our lives.

Finally, please pray for our children. Pray that they lean into Jesus and that they are able to express their feelings and thoughts clearly to us and others to help them process. We know God loves them more than we do, but they are the hardest part of this. We want to be here for them and watch them grow. Pray that we continue to point them to Jesus with our lives and through our trials.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Update 8/16/23: God Sees

Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes."

Psalm 33:18 "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love."

I think many times our first reaction when life gets hard is to ask God, "Do you see me God? Do you even care? Do you see what I'm going through?" Sometimes we might even blame God for what is going on in our lives. But if we truly understand that Heaven Rules, and that God is sovereign, it changes the narrative. 

It makes me think of three Jewish boys who refused to bow a knee to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3). They told the king, even with the threat of death in the fiery furnace, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (my emphasis added) 

These young men knew that God was sovereign, that Heaven Rules. They knew that God was able to save them, they just didn't know if He would save them. If you do not know the story, this angered Nebuchadnezzar so much that he had the fire stoked 7x hotter than ever. The mighty men of his army that threw the men into the fire died from the heat. But then the most amazing scene played out before this mighty king. They saw not three, but four men (Jesus is the 4th man), unbound walking around in the fire. When they came out of the fiery furnace, not a hair was singed, their clothes weren't burnt, no smell of fire, and their bound hands were undone. This caused Nebuchadnezzar to cry out in worship to God because of the acts that he saw God do on behalf of these young men. 

In their most desperate hour, Jesus was there for these young men, just as He is with us in our darkest times. He walks by our side, comforts us, and carries us when it is too hard to take one more step on our own. Remember Isaiah 43:2? "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." God promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). 

I have to share the most amazing thing God did for me today, which demonstrates that He sees me and He cares for me, even if it doesn't always feel like it. I really needed this encouragement today and I hope that it encourages you that you are not alone and that God sees you!

I was very frustrated after calling the doctor's office this afternoon only to find out that I "may" hear back by tomorrow but more likely Friday or Monday about setting up an appointment. I don't know how to express how helpless you feel when you know that you have something like cancer that needs to come out, but all the medical teams seem to be dragging their feet (at least that is the way it feels). I feel like this needs to be done yesterday. 

Here is where God stepped in and reminded me that Heaven Rules, He sees me, and nothing takes Him by surprise (because as you will see, He has been interweaving people into my life before I knew I would need them). A friend called this a "God wink" and I absolutely love that phrase. 

Yesterday, on social media, I asked friends for suggestions regarding natural remedies/functional medicine that I can use alongside traditional medicine. I received some great suggestions, including information from one of Micaela's CC (Classical Conversations) classmate's mom. We met at our parent orientation a few weeks ago where I discovered that she was a pediatrician. She called me this afternoon, about 30 minutes after getting the discouraging news from the doctor's office. We talked about everything going on. Here is where it gets amazing! While working as a pediatrician, she went back to school and studied functional medicine. She is going to compile some information for me about functional oncology. Not only that, when she asked me who I was being referred to for my oncology, it turns out she is friends with the doctor and they went to school together. 

To understand just how many God winks and how huge this is. Micaela is attending a class that we just decided this summer to send her to because of Wayne's health. She is one of six kids in the class, in a town that is 30 minutes away, with this new family who just joined CC, which just happens to be at the same location as Micaela, whose mom just happens to be a doctor, who just happens to have studied functional medicine, oh, and who also just happens to know and be friends with the doctor that I'm supposed to be seeing. People there are no accidents!! God knew all that was going to happen and He wanted to remind me that I am not alone, that He loves me, sees me, and has a plan for me! As a friend said, "Sometimes we just need reassurance that He is there and He reveals Himself in very real ways." Another friend wrote, "He walks ahead of us to fight the battles we can't fight without Him. You're not treading water alone. His goodness is right beside you." God lets us know in our darkest hours that He is with us.

God is so good. All I can think about is the song "Goodness of God". 

I love You, Lord

For Your mercy never fails me

All my days, I've been held in Your hands

From the moment that I wake up

Until I lay my head

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

And all my life You have been faithful

And all my life You have been so, so good

With every breath that I am able

Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice

You have led me through the fire

In the darkest night

You are close like no other

I've known You as a Father

I've known You as a Friend

And I have lived in the goodness of God (yeah)

All my life God has been faithful and He has been so good. So, with every breath that God gives me while I am still alive, I WILL sing of His GOODNESS!!!

Update Wayne: Wayne just took day 4 of chemo. He freaked me out this morning when he woke up because his speech was terrible. He could hardly say anything. He barely was able to say "food" and "pills". I have to admit, when this happened this morning, I asked God, "How are we going to do this? I am Wayne's caretaker and I'm going to be out of commission for some time. This is all just too much God and it's not fair." I felt so helpless and cried about so many things that are losses right now in our lives. 

Thankfully, after sleeping for a few more hours, he was able to speak better as the day progressed. Nausea has hit him harder. Unlike 8 years ago, Wayne has to take multiple anti-nausea pills to help ease his stomach. 

Update Kids: School started Monday for Naomi, Abigail arrived safely back in Virginia, Grace was able to be ministered to this week before heading out on the road, and all the other kids are on week 2 of school. Shan had a great appointment at Cincinnati Children's Hospital yesterday. They are thrilled how well he is doing with his condition. He has fatty tumor wrapped internally in places, but he has no side effects or negative things going on, which baffled the doctors. God is so good!!! We will take all the little wins.

Grace and her teammates spending time preparing to serve others.

Our trip wore Shan out. 

As a family, we are still processing, reeling and adjusting to so many things going on in our lives. I have to remind myself that it is just a lot. Whatever school we can get to at this time, is all we can do as we all process some deep, hard things. I figure I'll have quite a few "down" weeks where we can catch up on things if we get behind. The priority right now is spending quality time with the kids, making memories, and pointing them to Jesus in all this hard.

Thank you to all of you for praying for our family. I know that is what keeps us going on these really hard days. Sometimes I don't even understand where the peace and ability to keep going comes from...and then I quickly remember it's God carrying me and using your prayers!


Monday, August 14, 2023

Update 8/14/23: Though You Slay Me

Job 13:15 "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him; yet I will argue my ways to His face." 

Since receiving the devastating news on Friday that I had cancer, my emotions and thoughts have been like a roller coaster. One moment I am able to joke that Wayne and I should have bought lottery tickets with our "luck", and then the next moment I'm in church sobbing through every worship song. It is amazing how the lyrics of songs hit in a different way when you face a difficult time in life. For example, yesterday we sang "Jesus Does". Verse 2 says "...feels every sorrow, carries the pain of His children? Jesus does. So we sing: Praise to the Father, Who gave us the Son, Praise to the Spirit, Who's living in us, When I was a sinner, He saved me from who I was, 'Cause that's what Jesus does." That just hit me in such a deep way. It reminded me of Hebrews 4:15-16 which states, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." 

Jesus understands what I am going through and is able to comfort me in ways that only He can because He has experienced difficulties as well. Isaiah 53:3-5 says, "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Hi, and by His would we are healed." Jesus is lovingly and compassionately carrying me through all of this. I don't understand and I am still wrestling with it all, but I trust that God has a perfect plan.

How does someone praise God with one breath and yet feel gutted the next? Rest and trust in Him, and felt betrayed the next? I think it is the tension between my flesh and my spirit. I have fears, anxieties, joys, and other emotions that I experience in my flesh as a human. But I am also a child of God, a lover and follower of Jesus Christ, so my spirit clings to my Savior and who He is and what He has done for me. So although it is difficult, I believe everything I am experiencing is just part of the difficult journey. 

On Sunday morning before church, I was completely broken. As I cried on Wayne's shoulder, I told him that maybe I didn't really want to have deep faith like Daniel, David, Esther, and other great patriarchs of the faith. In my flesh, I felt like all that we have endured with Wayne over the past eight years and the mental health issues we faced with our son a few years ago, was plenty. Why would God ask any more of me? This trial is not only impacting us, but our children, our extended family, friends, and even complete strangers. I think everything in us cries, "Not fair!" And yet, through all of this, I know that God has a plan and a purpose, even if I never understand it. 

A friend from Chicago gave me a book called "Every Moment Holy", which has laments. I read one today called "Seasons of Uncertainty". I thought it perfectly expressed how I feel today.

"In the midst of whatever follows, O Lord, let me meet Your mercies anew, and anew, and anew. In the midst of my dismay, fix my eyes again and again upon your eternal promises.

How this ends - that is up to You. If the next news is favorable, I will praise You for the ongoing gift of life. If tomorrow's tidings are worse, still will I proclaim Your goodness, my heart anchored ever more firmly in the eternal joys You have set before me. 

And when, whether days or decades from now, You finally bid me rise and follow You across the last valley, I will rejoice to Your faithfulness even there. Especially there - praying Thy will be one, and trusting by faith that it will be done. That it is being done. Even now. Even in this disquiet.

I am utterly yours, O Christ. In the midst of this uncertainty, I abandon myself again to You, the author and the object of all my truest hopes."

Finally, this evening I heard these two songs on my playlist as I was cleaning. If you want to understand where my heart is, these songs express it perfectly. Please take a moment and listen to them because I know that they will bless you as much as they have blessed me.

God has already been teaching me a lot over the last few days. First of all, He keeps reminding me that as much as I love my children, He loves them more. That was one of the main sources of my tears this weekend...my children. As much as I have tried to stay positive, when you hear "cancer", it is easy to allow your mind to go to the worse case scenario. I cried over things that I may miss in my kid's lives, but ultimately, I cried over the fear that these trials would be too much on some of them and that they would blame God and walk away from Jesus. Not only that, I sobbed over thinking about Shan possibly losing his parents who were supposed to be there for him. When we adopted after Wayne's initial cancer diagnosis, there was always the comfort knowing that our kids would have at least one parent. The thought of leaving my kids as orphans has broken me. But God has reminded me over and over that He has them and loves them even more than I could imagine. 

The lessons continued into today. I had to learn patience and waiting on His timing. I called the oncologist's office four times only to learn they had not received the referral. I called my OB's office two times and left messages, but I did not receive any call back today. So, I once again am just waiting. Since I am not one to sit on my hands, especially since every little twinge makes me wonder if my body is trying to kill me (I know a little dramatic), I did decide that if I have not heard anything by 9:30 tomorrow morning, I am driving to Lexington and will pick up the referral in person and drive it to the oncologist's office. 

Wayne Update: Thank you for praying for Wayne. He only had that little fever Friday night, and then he didn't have a fever. He was exhausted and slept almost all of Saturday, so he decided not to start his chemo until Sunday night. Tonight was day 2 of chemo. So far he is handling it okay, he is just tired. I am sure that it will get worse before it gets better like last month. He is my hero because he is such a fighter and is pushing through for all of us. 

Today I took Wayne for his first pedicure. Since he cannot cut his own toenails and he fired me, we had to take him to a professional. To see him in the pedicure chair was hilarious. He did not feel comfortable and was out of his element. I tried turning the massage chair on for him, and he looked at me like "What is that monster pushing up and down my back?" I concluded that maybe it feels different on someone tall because I know that is one of my favorite things to experience when getting a pedicure. Then when Wayne was asked if he wanted clear polish, he had huge eyes and he replied, “No, I think I am okay with my toes just like they are!” It was quite the experience! My only regret was not having the technician pretend like she was going to paint his toes pink.

Thank you to the special person who surprised us and paid for our pedicures. 

Prayer Requests:

- Please pray that Wayne's body stays strong over the next three days of chemo.

- Please pray that the doctors schedule an appointment for me and that we get my surgery scheduled; that this type A/planner girl is able to get a plan in place for the long recovery ahead; and that the cancer is slow growing and just within my uterus.

- Pray for Abigail as she travels back to Liberty for her senior year. She was having a difficult time tonight wanting to go back with all the uncertainty at home.

- Pray for all of our kids as they start back up at school, especially Naomi who is our only driver right now at home. 

- Finally, please pray for my trip to Cincinnati Childrens' Hospital with Shan tomorrow. Pray that everything looks okay with Shan and that we don't have any issues with his unique growth gene mutation.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Update 8/11/23: Too Much to Handle?

Psalm 56:3-4 "When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid..."

Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

Our lives were turned upside down 2/11/15 when Wayne had a grand mal seizure that revealed a lemon size tumor in Wayne's brain. It was also tossed when Wayne's brain cancer decided to show up again earlier this year (2023). 

I had to post a happy picture from our trip because today has been hard

Once again, out of the blue, our lives have been turned upside down. Today at 3:30pm, I received a call from my doctor regarding the routine uterine biopsy I had on Tuesday. Unfortunately, they found cancerous cells in my biopsy. I am disappointed by the results and frustrated that they didn't just wait until Monday to let me know the results, since nothing else can be done or discussed until at least Monday when the office opens again. So, I am left to my own thoughts and fears over the weekend. Well, that is where my brain wants to drag me and I have to keep surrendering it to the Lord.

From a human perspective, I feel like this is just all too much for me to handle. How can I be a caretaker AND a patient? My mind is spinning and feels out of control. I have been taking good care of myself (eating well, exercising, trying to keep my stress levels down) because I knew it was important with all that Wayne was going through. That is one of the reasons I went to the doctor so quickly a few months ago and then again a few weeks ago. My doctors know that I want to stay on top of everything because of the unique situation that we face with Wayne. How did this so quickly change?

The hardest part was figuring out how to tell the kids. I was in the kitchen cleaning when I got the call and they saw me start to cry. I wasn't sure how to talk to them, so I hid in my room for awhile. I called our family counselor, who I had just seen yesterday with Joella. I asked her for advice, since she knows how fragile a few of our kids are with Wayne's health. Unfortunately, I was not able to follow her advice all the way since my kids kept hounding me and had already come to their own conclusions because they knew I had the biopsy earlier this week. We finally decided to let them know that they had found some bad cells in my biopsy and I need to follow up with doctors next week to find out what needs to be done. Many have solved it on their own and know what we were saying, without saying it. So far, they seem to be doing okay. Most of them are handling it by joking that both parents have cancer. It's not a joke, but I know that is how they are processing it. As a parent, it is hard to balance being honest with them, but not also causing further trauma. Our kids have had to endure many difficult discussions over the years about hard topics most adults can't even handle.

In the midst of all of this hard news, Wayne came down with a slight fever this evening, which will most likely delay his chemo. He was supposed to start chemo tomorrow night. If he has a fever tomorrow, we will wait a day or two to start his chemo. I don't know if he caught something that is going around, but I sent him to bed to get some sleep. I'm praying that he feels better in the morning and that no one else gets sick. Unfortunately, this development meant that I had to cancel my trip with the women from church to see Lisa Harper tomorrow. 

I know God has a reason for everything, but I was looking forward to worshiping with other ladies. For me, when life is hard, worship is the way I can express how I feel to the Lord. Since I can't attend, I decided to have my own worship service tomorrow in my basement as I workout. I figure a hard workout with some blaring worship music will help me break through the wall I have up right now. Why is it so easy to shut down and try to stuff emotions? Maybe it's just me? I felt myself shutting down as the kids watched me in the kitchen. I wanted to stay strong for them and not break...but I know the breaking is coming. I can't be strong forever and for everyone, and I'm not meant to. I am so thankful that God walks along side me and when it starts feeling like too much, He's right there to pick me up and carry me. He wants to do that all the time, but I fight Him and want to do some of this on my own. Too many times I am like a young toddler who fights their parents to walk on their own on a difficult path, only to fall down and get hurt. Then the child (me) is more than willing for their parent to pick them up and carry them. Why don't I just allow Him to carry me from the beginning?

Over the past 8 hours, I keep reminding myself that Heaven Rules! God is good, despite all this hard. He has a plan and a purpose for all of our pain. I think He even prepares us before some trials come our way. A few weeks ago after we returned from Chicago, I remember standing in my bathroom after receiving news that a young lady I discipled had stage 3 breast cancer, and I thought to myself, how would I handle a diagnosis like that? I asked God that I would be able to handle it with grace and faith like Wayne and this young lady. I then jokingly thought, watch, just like Job, satan will ask permission to sift my health too since we still praise God through all of this hard. I had no clue that a few weeks later, I would receive a call where I would hear the dreaded "C" word. 

After the initial shock wore off from the news, I told God that I want this trial and hard time in my life to somehow point others to Him. I know that there are people who read our blog who don't have a personal relationship with Jesus. It has always been our prayer that through our lives, Jesus would be evident and shine brightly. I told Jesus that this was a chance to shine bright because there are going to be many people who don't understand why - why would God allow two parents to get cancer? Why would God allow so much hard and bad in their lives? I don't have the answers and to be honest, I have already wondered some of that myself. How much is too much God? 

All I can tell you is that God is good despite how bad things look right now. Jesus has done so much in my life, and in Wayne's life. I know that I can trust Him, even though I don't understand this and I don't want this trial. It all goes back to the book I just read "Heaven Rules". God is sovereign and He has a plan. My role is to trust Him and to point others to Him. I may not see the work He is doing or the story He is weaving, but I will trust the Creator to hold me in His hands and walk with me each step of this difficult journey. 

I know I have referred to this poem a lot on my blog and in person, but it rings so much more true to me today. 

Corrie ten Boom "Life is But a Weaving"

My life is but a weaving

Between my God and me.

I cannot choose the colors

He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;

And I in foolish pride

Forget He sees the upper

And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly

Will God unroll the canvas

And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful

In the weaver’s skillful hand

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;

Nothing this truth can dim.

He gives the very best to those

Who leave the choice to Him.

Many times we only see the picture on the left. This is our view of our lives here on earth. It looks messy and we can't understand what is going on. But God is weaving together a beautiful picture that sometimes can only be seen from His heavenly perspective.

Normally, I try to post some fun family photos from the week, but I just don't feel up to it tonight. I will update early next week once we hear anything about me and I will also update everyone when Wayne starts chemo and how he does.

Prayer Requests:

- Wayne: please pray that he wakes up without a fever and that he feels better tomorrow so he can start his chemo. Please also pray that he starts to regain some strength in his right side.

- Rebecca: please pray that the doctors come up with an effective and quick plan to resolve this issue for me. Please pray that the cancer cells are just in the uterus and that we caught it early. Pray for me to leave all of this in Jesus' hands and not to overthink or read google this weekend.

- Kids: Please pray for the kids as they are juggling so much with their parents. They have many fears and concerns. They are trusting God through this too, but they are still human and have some legitimate fears.

- Pray for those who visit this blog who do not have a personal relationship of Jesus to encounter Him on this page and have a relationship with Him, since we know that is the most important decision any of us could make here during this short life on earth.

I cannot begin to thank all of our faithful prayer warriors over the years. So many people that God has weaved into our lives and story. I am thankful for each one of you.



Monday, August 7, 2023

Update 8/7/23: Back to Reality

Psalm 144:3-4 "O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow." 

Day 10: We spent most of the day relaxing by the pool. I read four books during our trip away, which was very enjoyable. The resort had beautiful pools, hot tubs, and a great sauna. I made sure to enjoy each one multiple times. That evening for dinner, we went to the Von Trapp Lodge. Sound of Music was one of my favorite childhood movies. When my sister told me that the family had settled in Stowe, Vermont after fleeing Austria, I knew I had to go there. Their estate was beautiful!! The views from our table and the mountains around us were unbelievable. 

Views from our resort.

Von Trapp Estate

Day 11: We started our last day in Vermont out at the Butlers Pantry for breakfast. I had read that they had the most amazing breakfasts and delicious freshly squeezed orange juice. So, our meal out for the day was breakfast. It was as good as people described. After breakfast, we enjoyed a slow two mile walk. I wanted to push Wayne in the wheelchair so that we could go further on the path, but he wanted to do it on his own. The two mile walk wore him out. By the time we got back to the hotel, Wayne was very tired. He enjoyed a nap while I went back to the pool and read. We spent the evening packing and then enjoyed one last movie.

Wayne asked for his syrup to be warmed, which gave us away as outsiders. I guess people in Vermont do not heat up their syrup. 

Day 12: This was a long day driving home. We drove from Stowe, Vermont to Medina, Ohio, which was about a 12 hour day. We split a Chipotle burrito for dinner and then fell asleep from our exhaustion. 

Day 13: Our trip was over after driving home from Ohio. It was wonderful to see the kids, but hard because we knew we were back to reality.

Back to Reality: We jumped right back into our crazy lives - taking kids to work, starting school, and doctor appointments. Wayne had to get his blood drawn today because they need his levels before he starts his next round of chemo on Saturday night. After that, we met with his neuro-surgeon via Telehealth to discuss his MRI from July. He mentioned the same concerning results our neuro-oncologist discussed with us. They see things going on in Wayne's MRI. They have mentioned radiation damage for sure, but possible tumor progression as well. He agreed with the oncologist to give the chemo a chance and rescan every two months. They want to keep a close eye eye on him. The doctor was also concerned that Wayne is experiencing more weakness now than he did after surgery. Wayne's right hand tremors are also concerning.

Prayer Requests:

- Please pray that Wayne stays healthy leading up to his next round of chemo and that his body handles the chemo okay. 

- Pray that we find another PT/OT/Speech group to work with since Wayne's other one moved further away. 

- Please pray for me as I have some tests being run this week. Pray that I have peace and trust God through all of this. Sometimes it just all feels like too much.

- Please pray for our kids as they transition back to school and our new routines. Pray that I am able to juggle all the things I have to between Wayne's health, teaching, etc.