Thankful Thursday: An anniversary

Happy Heart Day. Valentine’s Day. Appropriate for me that it lands on a day to play along with Thankful Thursday at Brian’s Home.

But not for the usual reasons. It was two years ago this morning that Entrepreneur was wheeled into an operating room for brain surgery. On Valentine’s Day.

We’ve come a long way in two years, but not without the scars…both physical and emotional. The surgery successfully removed an almost 2 inch tumor. But renal cell cancer is a relentless adversary. Even after a year and half of oral chemo, it’s trying to reclaim territory. Same war, new battle. 

But today we celebrate. Celebrate two years post surgery, thanking God for the tender mercies of the past and for extending his life. We have gratitude for experiencing the good and bad that intertwines itself throughout our story. Our faith has grown deeper despite the uncertainty of the future. Relationships have grown deeper despite past differences. The keen realization of how fleeting this life is on earth has grown painfully sharp.

But today we celebrate love and caring for special people in our lives. Whether you buy into the Hallmark hype of the holiday or not, I’m sure there are special people in your life. Be sure to share with them how much you care….don’t wait for a specially designated day to show your appreciation for them. You may not be offered another chance.

Today we celebrate.

Blog hopping today with Thankful Thursday hosted by Brian’s Home.

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Same war, new battle

This may not seem like a normal Thankful Thursday post, but bear with me. You’ll understand in the end.

As some of you know, Entrepreneur was granted a 90-day chemo holiday last October. This allowed him to enjoy the holidays and our family vacay to Mexico last December.

Last week, he went in for his 6-month brain MRI and 3-month CT scan. And, the news was not what we wanted to hear.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33

Cancer cells have begun ringing the initial tumor site in his brain. How long they’ve been there is anyone’s guess. Renal cell is a slow growing cancer so it’s feasible they were there prior to the drug holiday. One spot on his lungs is slightly larger than it was three months ago. More surgery is not recommended at this time. I agree.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ~Josh. 1:9

Not excited about going back on oral chemotherapy, Entrepreneur and his oncologist looked at a new immunotherapy treatment for renal cell cancer. While there is no cure or remission for this type of cancer, trials for Opdivo have shown success in prolonging life.

So buckle up, Buttercup, we’re gearing up for another battle in the overall war. Once a month, he’ll be hooked up to an IV, reclining in the chair of his choice in the infusion room and receiving the immunotherapy drug to try and boost his own immune system to fight the good fight.

This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. ~2 Chron. 20:15

Looking back, we both believe the drug holiday was instrumental in allowing his system to strengthen in preparation for this next step. His body simply could not have undergone immunotherapy in its weakened state. Now, he’s gained back  much of the weight he lost and is physically and mentally stronger to endure the side effects.

Today I’m thankful for every extra day we’re given together. I’m thankful there is an alternative to chemotherapy with this type of cancer. I’m thankful for the loving, caring people who are circling the wagons around us while we continue the fight. I’m thankful for a God who understands pain, grief and loss, and is sending strength, comfort and reassurance in the face of the storm. I’m thankful there are music artists who so eloquently write songs that personify the struggle and challenges of this world.

Blog hopping today with Brian’s Home for Thankful Thursday.

Seas the Day!

Some of you know our family went on vacay to Cancun, Mexico in early December. It was long overdue since the last few years have been a struggle with Entrepreneur’s brain surgery, recovery and chemo schedule. A 90-day reprieve from chemo allowed him to enjoy the holidays and this much-needed getaway with those he loves most.

While I, personally, took gigabytes of photos, we contacted the photographers that took our family photos in 2015. Surprisingly, they remembered us and we spent more than two hours on the beach capturing family memories.

Of course, we had many obligatory, formal poses of everyone and individual family units.

Once those were finished, well…..the “adult children” had a little fun with the photographers. And, judging by the laughter while shooting the photos, I think the photographers had a lot of fun with them. Hope these make you giggle a bit. All of these were spontaneous poses with no pre-planning what so ever.

Who is Daddy’s favorite?

Appropriate or Inappropriate?
These engaged lovebirds can play to the camera better than anyone I know……

…..and this sequence with the newlyweds made everyone laugh. First we have a lovely shot and very “appropriate.”

Then, it goes downhill from there….literally.

As you can tell, there is no shortage of entertainment when we get together. I’m linking up with Thankful Thursday over at Brian’s Home today because words cannot capture how thankful and grateful I am Entrepreneur was able to eat and drink his way through Cancun for a week. I’m grateful we were able to all be together to relax and decompress from life’s stress. And, I’m thankful we’ve been able to financially make this happen. No one knows the future. We may all be together for another updated photo in a few years….or not. This year could be a banner year for us…or it might hold devastating events.

But, whatever 2019 holds, these memories will live forever in my heart, and a few on the walls of our home!
Entrepreneur and me 2018

 

2018 One Word Wrap Up

My post today is doing double duty. My Awwww Monday photo is so cute and you’ll surely think it’s an awwww-worthy selection for today.

The second is because it’s New Year’s Eve. For quite a few years, I’ve ditched the New Year’s resolutions in favor or picking one word to focus on for the year. Some years are successful, some…not so much. Here’s a recap since 2015 when our lives were thrown a major curve ball.

One Word for 2015: Fearless: In late 2014, Entrepreneur was diagnosed with renal cell cancer. I believe I’m stronger now by focusing on trying to be less fearful of the future.

One Word for 2016: Present:  I wanted to focus on being present without the distraction of social media. Despite mixed results, I’m more conscious now of how much time my eyes are focused downward instead of outward or upward.

One Word for 2017: Joy:  This one was a spectacular FAIL. Joy was elusive to me. Entrepreneur’s cancer revisited us as a brain tumor in February, so setting the tone for the rest of the year. Post surgery physical and mental deficits, radiation, a 9-month bout with Bells Palsy, and oral chemotherapy pretty much sucked the joy out of life. While 2017 did have some happy moments, I’m afraid I lost my Joy in the middle of the muck.

One Word for 2018: Shalom: A word I desperately needed to focus upon given Joy’s disappearance in 2017. Daily, oral chemo was still a regime for Entrepreneur and I watched my husband of 38 years lose 20+ pounds and continue to suffer chemo fog and related, devastating side effects. But, in the middle of it all, beautiful, loving, caring prayer partners came alongside us both physically and emotionally to help navigate the challenges. The result was a sense of calm that enveloped me in the middle of the chaos. I did a couple of women’s bible studies and read two especially helpful books. I highly recommend both of these books for anyone facing the hostilities of life.
1. Not by Sight by Jon Bloom: a book about trusting in the promises of Jesus, and following him into the unseen and unknown.
2. Be Still My Soul by Nancy Guthrie: a book with short commentaries exploring the age old question of why God allows pain in our lives. And, how to trust the promises of Jesus in the middle of pain and suffering.

Peace is dependent on the absence of something and is always fragmented. Shalom is more all-encompassing. It’s a positive force, not dependent on the absence of anything. It’s the gold standard of contentment in the middle of chaos, anger and despair. This kind of lasting peace, or shalom…wholeness, completeness and harmony…can only come from Jesus.

While I’m not completely there yet, I think my state of mind has more shalom than before. I still get anxious about what the future holds, but can feel a sense of calm in my soul. Am I giving up and giving in? Hardly. We will fight the good fight, but realize the outcome is ultimately up to God’s plan for our lives. I have a specific scenario of what that outcome should be, but surrender the final decision to the One to whose life I belong.

Check back on January 1st to find out what word I’m choosing for 2019. 🙂 Until then,  hope your 2018 was filled with good memories with family and friends.

Blog hopping today (after too long a hiatus) for Awww Monday with Sandee at Comedy Plus.

 

Thankful Thursday: Gratitude, Peace and Vision

As some of you know, we’ve been battling cancer in our house. Entrepreneur was diagnosed with renal cell cancer (kidney cancer) in November 2014. Surgery removed the diseased kidney and scans of his lungs and thyroid were inconclusive for any metastasized cell growth. However….they were not scanning his brain. In February of 2016, a mass was discovered on the right side of his brain, which required surgery.  After surgery and radiation, he developed Bell’s Palsy which rendered the right side of his face partially paralyzed. It took almost nine months for that to pass, although he still has some minor issues with his right eye. Daily oral chemotherapy was prescribed to try and get out ahead of any cancer that might be waiting to show its ugly head.

At this time, there is no cure for renal cell cancer. Average lifespan after renal cell diagnosis is 5 years. The oncologist said the best we can do is try and stave off its growth for as long as possible. But chemo began to ravage his systems and he lost about 25 pounds along with having to deal with the other nasty chemo-induced side effects. We literally have friends and family from across the globe lifting us up in prayer.

Fast forward to Wednesday, October 3rd. Entrepreneur’s new oncologist is of the opinion that, because no new renal cell cancer growth has shown up for the past year and a half, he will give him a drug holiday! His words were, “right now, it’s not the cancer that’s killing you, it’s the chemo.” I concur. It’s been heartbreaking to watch my husband of 38 years wasting away; his strength and resolve getting weaker and weaker by the day because of the chemo pills.

It’s a mixed bag of blessings. Was the chemo keeping the cancer at bay, which is why nothing shows on the scans? Or, like the doctor said, there isn’t anything in your body for the chemo to fight, so why are we continuing to destroy you?  He will continue to be scanned every three months and, when it returns, we’ll discuss options again.

But for now, we’re thankful and grateful for God’s tender mercy that will allow him to enjoy our upcoming family vacation, the holidays, and hopefully reach far into 2019. We’re thankful and grateful for every word of prayer offered on our behalf. We’re thankful and grateful to be surrounded by love and support. It has truly made a difference in our lives.

He’s gained back five pounds this week. 🙂


Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melody Beattie

Blog hopping today with Brian’s Home for Thankful Thursday. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

 

An unconventional Valentine’s Day

Today is our one-year anniversary. Most people speak of this in terms of relationship status. But today marks a very different anniversary for Entrepreneur and me. It was one year ago today, Valentine’s Day, when he went into surgery to remove a cancer mass in his brain.  Not exactly what you would put in a Hallmark card.

One year ago today, we were waiting for him to get out of post-op recovery. With my support system at my side, the minutes drug into hours until I could lay eyes on him.

And then next 10 days in the hospital were spent getting him stable enough to begin the long, hard road to recovery. I can say, without a doubt, these were the scariest days of my life. The cognitive deficit due to post surgery swelling was disturbingly real. And there were very few reassurances those first crucial days.

Looking back, 2017 sucked. This event forever changed our lives and derailed many of the the plans we’d been formulating for our retirement years. The surgery was difficult enough, but the aftermath has presented challenges that have left me with a loss as to how to overcome.

Targeted radiation to the area of his brain affected by the tumor gave way to 6 months of Bell’s Palsy. Oral chemotherapy is taking its toll with the challenge of providing nutrition to combat the fatigue. He left the hospital with high expectations to rehab and regain his strength and abilities. And he was on track for a remarkable recovery. One year later, he most definitely has impressed his physicians and surgeons, but when the oral chemo is actively destroying any gains, being optimistic and proactive becomes harder and harder. It grates on us mentally, psychologically, physically and spiritually.

Our support group is awesome. These people are the shining light in the middle of this dark journey.

I admit, I took for granted this would simply be a bump in the road. I expected him to rally and overcome obstacles like he’s always done in the past. But, nothing is a given anymore.

One year out…..he’s still part of our lives. He’s trying hard to push through the destructive effects of chemo so he can spend as much time as possible with his daughters and granddaughters. There is so much to live for.

But, there’s been a shift in perspectives. Gone are the aspirations of us having an active, retirement lifestyle. Every day is a struggle. Every day is a gift. Many cancers can be put into remission or destroyed completely. Not renal cell cancer. There is treatment, but no cure or remission. His scans have been clear over the past year, which is a blessing and cause for hope.

Entrepreneur would like to engage and live whatever is left of his life to the fullest. I’d like to say we’re not letting this get in the way, but that would be a lie. No matter how much we say this condition is not going to get in the way of living life to the fullest, the reality is….it’s in the way. If fact, it’s set up a roadblock that seems awfully difficult to get around. As long as he’s on oral chemo, his stamina is reduced and the usual effects of the drug are ever present.

The new normal.

Entrepreneur does not like his “new normal.” This type of chronic cancer steals joy and steals hope. And I’m not sure how to deal with these feelings or help him to overcome the feelings of loss of a meaningful life. I would love nothing more than to focus on enjoying whatever life is left….it’s just so much harder to live it to rather than to say it. I pray for an advancement in the treatment of renal cell cancer…..an immunotherapy treatment that would help combat the relentless destruction of the body from oral chemo. Clinical trials are underway for new ways to manage this cancer…but….and this is the cynic in me….when the chemo pills cost the insurance company upwards of $5K per month, where exactly is the incentive to find a cure?

So, today, Valentine’s Day, is especially poignant this year. It not only marks the one-year anniversary of brain surgery (two thoughts that should never, ever be combined), but also serves as a reminder that nothing in life is a given. Stop letting trivial arguments get in the way of spending time with those you love. Put aside those family disagreements and ask yourself….if you were in my shoes…just how important those petty irritations and grudges really are.

Happy Heart Day and may those your love know how much you care about them today and always.

Am I the storm?

Fate whispers to the warrior,
“you cannot withstand the storm.”
The warrior whispers back,
“I am the storm.”

~Unknown

When I came across this quote, it really struck me as a powerful way to combat the fear, doubt, worry, anxiety and sheet exhaustion that goes along with the battle with cancer. While I’m not the one with the horrid disease, when cancer strikes, it affects the entire family. So to read this quote seem like it would be empowering, right? We look fate square in the eye, lean in close and, with an antagonistic smirk, declare we are the storm.

I don’t know about you, but left to my own capabilities, I am anything but the storm. In fact, left on my own, I tend to struggle to stay afloat in the pity puddle created through worry, fear and anxiety. And closely related to those are the ugly cousins of resentment, irritation and impatience.

Left on my own, this is more what I tend to do.
I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest. ~Psalm 55:8

No, as much as I would like to identify as a warrior who can confidently take on what may be considered the lies of Fate (or the Devil in some quote variations), I cannot do it alone. I am wonderful at talking the talk, but sometimes walking the walk is a completely different story.

I need the rest of the army….and let’s throw in some marines, navy seals and air force fighter pilots as well. And let’s make sure the commander is one worthy of taking on the brewing storm.

Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy. ~Exodus 15:6

That ideal Commander-in-Chief would be the one who not only has the power to create the storm, but the one who also is sovereign over the storm.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. ~Matthew 8:24-26

And that army of warriors? Those would be everyone who has come to our aid in prayer. And, we have awesome prayer warriors…from here in our church to across the country…and jumping across the pond as well. Without these intercessions, I assure you we would be feeling more overwhelmed and lost than we already feel now.

Some days I feel strong and fearless in the eye of the storm. But then there are the days when I feel like a single drop just might drown me. Lately, some complications have arisen that are testing both our patience and resolve. And, I can confidently say I’m somewhat terrified. And, there are many nights after he’s asleep where I find myself feeling overwhelmingly sad that there’s a chance all the plans we’ve made for the future just might never happen.

So, am I the storm? Not hardly. But when I’m aligned with the one who created and has the power to calm the storm…and with those who know how to use the powerful weapon of prayer…and the mere mortals in whose hands we put our health care….

…we can become the perfect reciprocal storm.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.