Saturday, June 22, 2019

Cancer in the Crazy


Many people have been asking for a blog update, but hold up—life has been so full with great stuff that I have been living abundantly which leaves no time for writing. BUT—there is much to fill in, including my crazy cancer updates, so this will be a mishmash of all things good and beautiful here in the Loy household.

To start, here is the medical update. I had six appointments within ten days before Micah’s graduation so that I could completely focus on my amazing graduate and all the family and friends who helped celebrate our STAR!  Here is the news: my kidney is doing well—the stent is functioning, the tumor has shrunk and there is no swelling on the kidney. YES, this is good. As for the tumors in my pelvis and lung—they have shrunk and the cancer blood markers are down—all good—but my oncologist wants me to go through four more rounds of chemo to continue to shrink the tumors (and get rid of them) and to avoid lung surgery if possible. I go in this Monday, June 24 to start the chemo again—same story—nothing new. The chemo sessions are usually every other week, with time in between to recover, but since we have plans to go to Colorado in late July—some of the sessions will push back into August. I am planning people—chemo isn’t going to stop the glorious family fun plans we have!

Now to back up to all the celebrating that has been going on despite having cancer, chemo, and appointments. On Memorial weekend, my dearest friends from college all descended upon Casa Loy for our annual “Ranger College Reunion.” My life changed many years ago, specifically in September of 1984 when I became a Resident Advisor during my senior year of college. I was assigned to San Nicolas—the freshman tower, with a room that overlooked the lagoon, cliffs and the ocean. Not bad, especially since my room and board were also paid for due to working as an RA. Why did this change my life? Because I met MY PEOPLE. The seven of us who were RA’s became fast friends and co workers and we basically comingled for the entire year. (and let me mention that we are all so different in many ways).  We went through many highs and lows (mainly related to the many trials and woes of our resident students), but we became stronger through it all. Since then we have been rock steady for each other (35 years of friendship)—with our own weddings, births, graduations, and now the weddings of our kids are starting. We try to meet once a year with each other and often our spouses and when possible, even all the kids. It is one big happy family. Because of my cancer and chemo schedule, the group all came here for the weekend and basically hosted everything for me from my house. We ate, drank, hiked, played games, and talked our usual banter. I can be wholly me with these people, these friends for life, these people who are honest, genuine, generous, hell of funny, and extremely smart. They came from across the country to be together—Northern and Southern California, Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee. I can honestly say that these friends would die on a sword for me and I for them.

Next up was Micah’s graduation. As senior class president of a class of 520 grads, he had a LOT going on in his last month. Besides prom, there was senior breakfast, senior picnic, GRAD night and then the graduation ceremony. My family came in from Washington and Oregon and Greg’s mom came in from Arizona and stayed with Greg’s brother in Temecula. Noah flew in from Colorado. Our wild and crazy family was all together for five straight days and we survived! So much fun banter, a lot of good food, many grad parties to attend, and then Micah and his best friend Tor’s grad party (of which Hanne, Tor’s mom, hosted and helped so much since I have been still dealing with cancer and its side effects). It was non stop, and I got my rest in when needed, plus my exercise and everyone pitched in to help. Micah gave his graduation speech as president, and emceed most of the ceremony—introducing speakers and singers, and then leading the “turning of the tassel” at the end of the ceremony. To say that I was bursting with pride doesn’t even cover it. Micah has always been his own guy—strong and independent and never following the crowd. He is a good friend, a great listener, and a strong leader. He loves Jesus and is true to his faith and his family and friends. I am in awe of this human that God created and gave me the honor of being his mom. 

We are rich with community, love, family and friendship. As I said before, I have cancer, but that will not stop me from living the rich and abundant life—doing what is important which is spending time with those that I love. If the side effects get to me, I rest. I have learned to live with some of the inconveniences. But the most important thing is that I am alive! God has given me a supernatural strength to endure all these festivities—not just to survive them, but to completely embrace and enjoy them.

There you have it—the medical update and the crazy Loy family adventures. All glory to God for His provision and care for our family. We stand upon the solid foundation that is Christ alone.



Monday, May 6, 2019

Community Love


I am headed into round three of infusion today—three quarters of the way through. The infusion weeks are rough. I wear the pump home for two days and then go back on Wednesdays to get it disconnected. The side effects were less intense in the last round, except for the hair loss. I have not shaved my head yet. I still have hair, but it is thinned out and patchy and not enough hair to style into my big 80’s hairdo. I am having fun playing with my two new wigs and experimenting with hairstyles. Getting ready is so much easier. I also wear hats and scarves when I go to the gym or a walk or am hanging around at the house. Although I am still trying to be stylish throughout this (because I love fashion and accessories), this experience has made me understand even more that beauty and appearance are not who we are. Our beauty comes from within, and I hope that my love for Christ shines through whether I am wearing a wig or a scarf or nothing at all with patchy and balding hair.

But I want this blog to be about something I have been experiencing daily throughout this long journey and that thing is COMMUNITY. The people who have surrounded our family with ACTS of love and compassion—this has helped us through. There are so many stories I could tell of acts of service and love—from people who get us groceries or do Costco runs, to the cards and flowers dropped on our front doorstep, to the texts of prayers and encouragement, to the meals that keep coming and keep my boys fed so I don’t have to think about shopping or prepping meals. I want to focus today on two stories of community….

Story one: Back in November (the month from hell)…when I was diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time, and then our dog was diagnosed with cancer (he is still with us ya’ll—Miracle Moses), and I went up to my hometown as I sat by the bedside of my step dad as he passed away and then all the business of death we had to take care of….oh it was a doozy. I arrived home after my stepdad’s passing and my friends Lisa and Dani arrived with a meal and sat and listened to me. It became quite clear that I was spinning out of control with everything I was dealing with. I call that day Manic Monday. They calmed me down and asked if there was anything different I needed in order to get through this. I thought about it and told them that Greg and I had been wanting to redecorate our room so that I had a calm and serene place to rest during the chemo and radiation. I told them that I had the design ideas and if they could just help me order the paint and the new window panels, that would be a huge help. Next thing I remember is they are in my bedroom taking pictures and coming up with all these ideas to redecorate my room. Then Operation Bestie became a reality. They pulled in three of my other besties and their hubbies and they decided to do a surprise renovation. I told them my budget and to stick to my color pallet and what I wanted to keep and what could go, and then I let them go for it. Yes, this control freak gave up control and allowed others to make choices for me. Shocker! They got to work ordering items, painting, and setting things up and within two weeks, we had a master bedroom REVEAL. Now let me say that Greg was not happy with this plan and remained uncomfortable with it during the whole process. He kept saying that he could do the demo and the painting and the work, but really he didn’t have time—it was hard for him to accept help, but he finally surrendered to it. 

The REVEAL of our bedroom brought me to tears. Not only because our master bedroom looks incredibly peaceful and serene, but because all my friends became a team and worked together to do something that would give us a sense of calm. But mainly that my friends took time out of their days and evenings to do this turn around of my room. That they SACRIFICED AND SERVED out of love for us. That is community. That is love. That is friendship.

Story Two: Our friend and renter (who has lived in our detached “casita” guest house) has moved out and we decided to finally make it a real guest house (what it was intended for…..but so many people we know over the past fifteen years have needed a space, so it has been used for them….I think we have had at least six people who have rented the guest house over the years). So, of course I decide that we need to redecorate this room, and we have been wanting to repaint our kitchen cabinets, and all of a sudden during all my chemo, we decide to add a few more items to our redecorating list. (Poor Greg—his “honey do” list is never ending and he never complains—he just keeps going and helping and working and loving me through his own acts of service and love). The main reason is that we want the spaces for our family and guests who are coming into town for Micah’s graduation in June.

So…this last weekend, four friends from our church came to our house to move furniture (and I mean big stuff) to different places in the house…some went to a garage sale for Young Life….and to help put some decorative items in place. Now these are guys who have young kids and babies at home. They came on their Saturday morning and spent the morning doing things we needed. “What can we do next?” was the phrase of the morning. Freshly baked pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and cherry chocolate scones were the only thing I did for them to thank them. It was entirely an act of SACRIFICE of time and energy. It was love in action, once again.

I see this in my community all the time. People who live out their faith through action.  Sacrifice, commitment, time, energy, love. Pure love through service and fellowship. We can’t do all these things while I am going through chemo and Greg is working full time, and trying to get things done on weekends. It isn’t like we have to do all this. We could keep it the way it is and not have the guest house ready for Micah’s graduation, but people stepped in and are helping us make it happen.

I can’t even begin to express the love and gratitude for the people in my community—people who I truly call family. It is beautiful to live a life in community. We bear each other’s burdens, we celebrate each other’s joys. We pray and we serve and we help. And we don’t do it because we are trying to do good deeds, or rack up points on the “I am such a great servant” scale—no these people love and serve me and others because we live out the love that God has freely given to us. The friends who surround me with this love and support are compelled because Jesus Christ has renewed them and they have a new purpose about life. It isn’t about success or joy rides or looking good—it is about true friendship, true service, true community. It is so so beautiful. It brings me to tears. It brings me such joy. I am so grateful for community.

So, as I head out this morning to my infusion day, I think of all this love and community that surrounds me, and I know with all my heart that I will make it through this once again. I am so loved and I am so thankful for all of you who have loved through your actions to help our family get through this. Despite this beast of cancer, I live a beautiful life in a faith community called family.
Shalom and thank you. 


(Pictures of the reveal and the people who helped will be up along with this blog on my FB page).


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Broken Shalom


To say that the last few weeks have been tragic and overwhelming would be an understatement. We live in a world that is “broken shalom”—not the world God intended. He created us to be in beautiful and intimate community with Him and with each other. When sin (which is pride and the desire to do things MY or OUR way which separates us from God’s intention for us) entered the world, the shalom God created was broken. But God gave us a Redeemer through Jesus Christ and we know that he is with us, he never leaves us, and he is continually renewing and uniting hearts here on this earth despite the brokenness. The great news is that one day all will be redeemed, restored, and reunited in Christ. There will be no pain and suffering and the creation that we have here on earth will be renewed and ours to behold and enjoy with God the Father in eternity.
   
Yet….we suffer on this earth, with trials in all areas of the world. With hate and injustice, and broken relationships and hurting families. With poverty, and disease, and hunger, and human trafficking and vitriol spread with violence and with words.

The past three weeks have been filled with tragedy in my life. One of our own precious church members died, with his wife and two young sons left here to grieve, mourn, and move forward each day. And then the horrific hate crime with the shooting at the Chabad synagogue in Poway, our sweet and love filled community.

And… my infusion chemo started. The first round was awful. I had every side effect they told me to expect. Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, agitation, heightened sense of smell and taste (nothing good), and a bit of vertigo (walking into walls and doors). The next week I felt better and stronger, and then I had to go to round two. That week was better. No nausea or vomiting. Still the agitation and lack of focus. And then the hair loss started. At first it was finding hair all around the sink, the shower, on my clothes. And then it hit hard. Huge clumps started coming out. I tried not to wash or brush my hair, but even when I touched it to put a hat on, clumps would fall out. I have made it through six years of having cancer on and off and never completely lost my hair. I have to say that I really am doing okay with this. I pulled out my hat collection and went to the wig studio today. I walked out with two new wigs and I will add my earrings and accessories and do my best to stay in step with my signature style. My friend Dee Dee went with me and we had lunch afterward and I felt so happy and renewed.

This week I have had a better appetite, but then I pay for it later. I am trying to stick to basics (fruit popsicles are my friends) and eating bland food like rotisserie chicken and rice. I am incredibly thankful for the meals people bring so that Micah and Greg get fed. It is a true blessing. I have been hiking and I even made it to my spin class a few times (going at my own pace) and these things always make me feel stronger and help me through. But what has helped the most has been the incredible outpouring of love through text messages, prayers, phone calls, cards, and all the support my community (you all) give to me and my family.

At the same time all this has been going on, there have been many precious moments that remind me that life is beautiful, despite its brokenness, and it is beautiful because of community. Because of people who love and grieve and mourn and lament and offer themselves to each other through the suffering. God shows Himself through each of us, and I see it every day. I continue to focus on the joys…which include…..that our family has some exciting news…(no, I am not pregnant)….

Micah has made his college decision and he will be going to the University of Denver in the fall. #DU. It is a perfect fit for his goals—it is a private college located in an urban area, yet with grounds that are green and lush and buildings that look like Yale was placed in Denver. Most important—it has a fantastic business and entrepreneurship program and art studio that will help him pursue his dream to own his own fashion design company. We are thrilled. And to make it sweeter, he will be one hour away from Noah who will be a senior at his college in Fort Collins CSU. It makes for a one stop shop for us to see our boys when we visit.

Which brings me to our next exciting news…(no, we are not adopting another puppy)…. We bought a house in Fort Collins, Colorado. It will be used as a rental for Young Life college students, starting with Noah and his roommates this year and then hopefully using for continued ministry in the area. It has an unfinished basement that we are building out to be used for AirB&B or VRBO for people and parents visiting their kids in college. We are so blessed that we were able to do this due to the sale of my dad’s condo after Ric’s death. We are excited about the possibilities that this home will have to love and serve Young Life college students and their families.

Despite the tragedies, I have seen the Spirit of God in all this. He makes himself accessible and intimate amidst suffering. It is then that we see Him with such clarity because He is real! He is here! He gives light and hope. Our church came together in love and support for our family whose husband died. Our city and community came together with two vigils, one on the night of the shooting, and another at Poway High School where 4,000 people gathered in solidarity in an interfaith gathering of love and unity. These are the times where we see the light; we see the hope. As Bob Goff says, LOVE DOES. And as one of my heroes, Mister Fred Rogers said, “In times of crisis, look for the helpers. There are always the helpers.” I see this now, being lived out in the broken shalom. People being the helpers and the lovers and the supporters and the prayer warriors.

But our greatest Helper is Jesus Christ himself. He came to be our Helper, to walk alongside us when we are confused and scared and helpless. When suffering comes because of broken shalom, Jesus says, “I am with you.” As we gather and we help and we mourn and lament, we know that one day the broken shalom will be restored and renewed. Jesus will redeem us to the shalom and perfect peace that He intends for us. And while we wait, while we suffer, while we help and support, He is with us saying, “I give you shalom NOW, in your hearts….you have My shalom.”

This gives me hope and strength. We have one who is our Help, who is our peace, who is our joy. 



Friday, March 22, 2019

Rejoice!


“This is the day that the Lord has made. I will REJOICE and be glad in it.” Do you wake up each day and FIRST thing say, “Thank you God—I have THIS day!”? Despite your circumstances or your suffering, do you rejoice in the day you have? I DO!

March 1, 2019 was the anniversary of my first cancer diagnosis. It has been SIX years! I am still battling—2018 brought a lot of pain, misdiagnosis, blood draws, scans, and ultimately another cancer tumor found in my pelvic region. 2019 began with daily radiation and chemotherapy pills for six weeks and then a procedure to put a stent in my ureter so my kidney could filtrate since the tumor was pushing on my kidney. My digestion and elimination system have been whacked out for years, but this radiation and chemo session ramped it up and it has been quite interesting (I will spare you the details). 

I want you all to know that I am not being fake here. I have always said that I would be real and raw in my blog. But this is true: God has given me a supernatural strength through all this. I tolerated the radiation and chemo very well and was able to keep to my schedule of spinning, hiking, and walking the dogs, as well as working, being a mom of a senior who has tons going on, and maintaining my precious time with dear friends. God gave me that strength! It is only from Him. I know with my whole heart and being that I did not get through this on my own strength.

After the radiation and chemo treatments, I had an ultrasound on my kidney and the doctor was thrilled that the stent had worked and my kidney was not swollen or stressed. He was prepared to move onto the surgery to remove the tumor. Then I had a scan of my whole body and had appointments with my oncologist and the colon surgeon. Everything was looking good to have a surgery in early April. My doctor had approved for me to take a getaway vacation before the surgery. Greg and I had flights booked to stay at our place in Puerto Vallarta. And then….

The scan did not show the results any of us anticipated. It showed three small spots in my lungs. Despite the chemo and radiation, the cancer had spread. The doctor said that they are miniscule….two spots on my right lung and one on my left. Despite being small, they are spots and they are suspicious, so the doctors met and decided that they would postpone surgery and I will continue with infusion chemotherapy for the next two months and then scan again. 

Two days after this news Greg and I headed to Puerto Vallarta and spent time resting, relaxing, reading, and not checking emails or phone calls related to my cancer. It was precious, beautiful time. The beach, the mountains, the sunsets, the food, the time alone with Greg—I was able to bask in God’s glorious creation and be reminded how extremely blessed I am.

I know that millions of people in the world battle disease and don’t have the opportunities I have. I want to acknowledge that clearly. I have healthcare and insurance. I have the money to pay for it. I have the best team of doctors all working together to provide treatment. I am able to go away on a vacation. I have a warm and comfortable home. I have a flexible schedule and a job at my church that brings me joy and purpose. I get to live out my passions. I have a community of friends who love and support me with words, actions, and prayers. My husband and my boys are my joy. They are strong in their faith and they have worked through this battle with me every step of the way. I never want to take for granted the comfortable life I have lived. I am humbled by the people I meet who are battling cancer and disease and who do not have the options and choices that I have. I want to continually acknowledge that and encourage each of you who are reading this today to truly look at what you have—your options, your choices, your opportunities…..and choose to be grateful. And then, I want myself and each of you to decide how you are going to make movement to use those privileges to help others and give the glory to God.

When we built our home in the hills of Poway in 2003, our vision and purpose was to have a home that would be inclusive and would be used for people and ministry. We were blessed with a plot of land that is nestled in the hills. A stream flows in our backyard. The wildflowers are in super bloom in the exuberant green that surrounds our home. It is a place of community and a place of refuge. 

Two weeks before I heard the news that there was more cancer, Noah’s Young Life Director from Colorado called us and said that their lodging fell through for their spring break trip to Southern California. Noah had suggested that if I was feeling strong and healthy, that maybe they could all camp in our backyard for the trip. Greg and I said that they could absolutely come, and use the whole house and backyard. A home. A home that is bumped and bruised from thousands of people who have trooped and stomped through for years. Young Life club. Bible Studies. Discipleship groups. Marriage counseling. Pool parties. Birthdays. Barbecues. Baptisms. Sunset happy hours. Community groups. Leadership meetings. Food. Wine. Fellowship. 

Last Saturday, when we arrived home from our trip to Puerto Vallarta, 17 young men from Colorado State Fort Collins occupied every square inch of space in our upstairs area and in our backyard and cabana. Air mattresses, sleeping bags, pillows and blankets….coffee makers and a coffee station up on the cabana….wet suits and towels hanging on every fence rail….food lined up across our laundry room and in the outside refrigerator. Young men who woke up each morning to two hours of individual quiet time with the Lord, and then two hours of sharing God’s Word and learning with each other. Men who packed lunches and headed out to the beaches of San Diego, (rain or shine)…..many of them who had never surfed before and many who have rarely seen or been to beaches. Young men who came home each evening and sat in the Jacuzzi and shared and grew in community. All these men are not only college students, but they are Young Life leaders in the middle schools and high schools of Fort Collins. They are pouring into young kids who are anxious and afraid and overwhelmed by the world. They love these kids exactly where they are. 

This. This. This is what life is. It is community. It is love. It is grace and faith. It is struggling through it together. Together. Together. This. This. This is what a home is for. Gathering. Meeting. Breaking bread together. Laughter. Games. Deep conversations. Opening the Word. Encouraging. Working through the hard times. These young men who my son has chosen to walk with through life—these young men give me hope. They love Jesus. They love each other. Then they pour out love as they serve others. 

Yes, I have cancer. My news is not good. But that is not what I am focusing on because God is showing me so much more. He continues to direct me to what is good and beautiful and important. He continues to give me strength and power that only comes from Christ in me. Once again, I am upended with news that wasn’t in MY plan. But I move on, in faith, and in His strength. I rejoice in the beauty of each new day. In pain, in darkness, in struggle, I rejoice. I look out now into my backyard. There are towels and wet suits blowing in the wind upon the fence rails. 17 young men are gathered on my cabana studying God’s word, drinking coffee, and sharing their lives with each other. Yes, I live with cancer, but God says to me…..”Look at what surrounds you…This. This is what you focus on.” Community. Love. Friendship. Joy. 

This is the day the Lord has made. I will be glad and rejoice in it.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Intention and Trust


It is a windy, rainy, and cold day here in San Diego and I am making the most of it by working from home in my pajamas with warm candlelight glowing in my office. Today’s post is mainly an update on my health. First, I want to say that it means the world to me to receive all your messages, comments, emails, texts, and phone calls. Thanks for checking in, giving me encouragement and strength, and for praying. It amazes me when I receive a message from someone who I had no idea was following my blog. I will never know everyone who reads it or is impacted by it, but that is not for me—because the whole purpose is to glorify and point to Jesus in all that I say and do. As always, I encourage you to send my information to anyone who needs support as they battle cancer—the survivor as well as the family. I love being able to help and answer questions about the cancer culture.

2019 began with my radiation schedule—five days per week for six weeks. I also take eight chemotherapy pills per day along with my treatment. My insurance denied the chemo pill (versus infusion) three times before my doctors got it approved.  I continue my treatment at the renowned Moore’s Cancer Center at UCSD and I am in wise and capable hands.  Radiation itself only takes about 20 minutes, but it is the drive there and back that makes it a two hour plus adventure each day. I make the most out of it by returning phone calls and listening to podcasts. Many have asked about driving me to my appointments, but as of this week I still have the strength to do it myself. If the fatigue and side effects hit, my friend Kathy will be in charge of the schedule. I am also grateful for all those who are sending meals on the meal train. This is so helpful, although with all these desserts, we are all getting fat and it’s only a week in. As much as I might complain about insurance, I am grateful that I have insurance, health care, and a hospital close by to get my treatments. I am well aware that many in our nation and the world do not have these opportunities. I always try to put everything in perspective and the best way to do that is to have a sincere attitude of gratitude. It puts me in my place!

Last night I was praying and thanking God for all He has given me and I couldn’t stop finding things I am grateful for. He has provided me with so much, starting with my amazing community of friends. As an introvert, I sometimes feel overloaded with people in my life. The inner critic in me tries to say that I am not going deep enough or giving back enough or being the loyal friend I want to be. Also as an introvert, I need lots of rest, balance, and down time, and sometimes with so many friends it is hard to keep up. Yet, I am incredibly grateful for all the friends in my life-- so please keep up with the encouragement even though I may not respond to a message. I really do have the most generous, loving, compassionate, funny, crazy set of friends out there! 

Since I am now in my fourth round of cancer, I have learned much about priorities. I have chosen two words for myself to put into thought and practice this year. The words are INTENTION  and TRUST. I want to be even more intentional about my time—spending it wisely and saying NO to things that aren’t life giving to me.  I want to be intentional about my friendships—spending quality moments as well as spur of the moment things like a quick walk or an impromptu coffee date. I want to be more intentional about my family—besides Jesus, they are my rock solid foundation. I love spending time with my boys and Greg, whether it is walking the dogs, eating sushi, cooking together, watching movies or sports, or playing games. Lastly, I want to be intentional about knowing Jesus more. That is where intention and trust converge. This is not a check off list. I had quiet time—check. I prayed—check. I read my Bible—check. I went to church—check. No, this is an absolute desire and craving to know Jesus more, not so I know about Him, but to truly know Him. 

In this six year journey, I have also learned that, shockingly, I am not in control. My desire to know God more clearly comes from understanding that I am not in control and learning to trust the ONE who truly is. It is always a work in progress, this journey with Jesus. We don’t wake up one day and say, “I got it” and then move on from Him. (Well maybe some people think that is how it works). It is a daily process, a daily surrender. As I face this next trial, that is what I want more of—surrender, trust, process, intention.

As you begin this new year 2019, I pray you will define your priorities, be intentional with your time and friends, and be grateful for all that you have. I pray also that you will desire to trust and to know Jesus more dearly and clearly in this thing we call life.  

Friday, December 21, 2018

Glimpses of Hope


I’ve been debating how I should start and title this post. I thought about “Category Four Shit Storm”; I thought about “The month from hell”; I thought about “Unrelenting.” But as I have processed through this difficult time, I realized that despite all the pain, sadness, anger, and frustration…there were many precious glimpses of hope and joy.

In my previous post when I found out that the cancer was back again, I wrote about the waiting, and also of the beauty I found in the brokenness. As my family dealt with bad news after bad news, I really did become numb and I couldn’t even process. But now I have had time and things have calmed down a bit (please Lord let it be calm for a while longer)…I will chronicle these unrelenting experiences in a condensed chronology.

As I wrote in my last post, on November 6 I found out that the mass in my pelvic region is indeed a malignant cancer tumor, and then two days later we found out that our sweet dog Moses also has cancer throughout his body that is inoperable.

The next two weeks were filled with numerous appointments with surgeons to prepare my treatment plan, as well as having my boy home from college and sharing a beautiful Thanksgiving with friends and family. Amidst all this, I was trying to reach my step dad Ric who lives alone in the Bay Area where I grew up. He has been in poor health, but had told me he was going to try to drive here for Thanksgiving. After calling him numerous times, and having neighbors check with no success, we had our friend call police to do a welfare check. Ric was found in dire condition and taken to hospital with a fractured hip and many other issues.  From this point on, each day was filled with numerous calls from the hospital--case workers, nurses, and doctors. I couldn’t get on a plane to see him because I had many cancer related appointments scheduled. It was difficult and emotionally draining to be far away and not by his side.  

(Necessary side note for clarification—In 1995 my parents told us they were divorcing after 33 years of marriage. A few years later my mom remarried a man (Denny). A few years after that my dad also remarried… a man (Ric). My dad passed away in 2015. My sister and I have been calling Ric “dad” for awhile, though technically he is our step dad. My sister and I are Ric’s remaining family.)

My doctors had scheduled another detailed MRI and a colonoscopy so I had two back to back appointments the Monday after Thanksgiving. This began my “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” While driving to my morning MRI appointment, I was waiting at a red light, minding my own driving business, and a guy plows into me on my drivers side, smashing my door in and my front left tire well area. We exchanged information and took pictures quickly so I could make my appointment (my door didn’t open fully, but my car was drive-able.) As I drove I was in a haze—I couldn’t believe that yet another “event” had happened in this already stressful time.  I was weak and tired because the previous day I had done my colonoscopy “Prep”-- for all of you who have been through that, you know what I mean. I couldn’t eat or drink anything until the colonoscopy-- which was scheduled for later that day. By the end of the day I was emotionally and physically drained and overwhelmed.

The next day (one day after my “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”) I received a phone call from Ric’s doctor that Ric was not going to make it. The doctor explained that Ric’s kidney functions and enzyme levels were not stabilizing so his body wasn’t strong enough to go through surgery and his body functions were shutting down. I looked at my calendar and saw that I had five days until my next cancer appointment, so I booked a flight up to Oakland. My sister and her husband Dave changed all their work plans and commitments as well and drove down from Oregon.

We met at the hospital and began sitting by Ric’s side, letting him know we were there even though there were no responses--not a nod or a hand squeeze or a word. (Thankfully he had been in and out of coherency the week before so we had been able to at least call him daily). But now, he was near the end. Nurses told us he was comfortable and that he was aware of our presence, so we kept talking to him about our memories with him and how much we loved him. We prayed over him, read scripture over him, and played music for him.  For two days we sat with him while also taking turns dealing with all the legal matters and paper work that go along with the “business of death.” For all who have been through this, it is emotionally wrenching and horribly overwhelming. I was so thankful that my sister and I could work through this together. 

On November 30 as we were preparing to go back to the hospital to be with Ric, the doctor called to say he had passed away peacefully. (This is also the day that President George H.W. Bush died).  We knew this was coming, but the finality made me numb emotionally. (By this time I felt like a robot, just walking mechanically through each horrible thing that happened). There was still so much to do and process. We spent the day doing more paper work with the will and talking to lawyers, doctors, pastors, and friends. That night we went to one of our favorite places in my hometown (Moresi’s in Clayton) to celebrate Ric and my dad and their lives. It was the place my dad and Ric loved to take us, and it carries many fond memories of our time with them. I flew home the next morning, with my sister and I having many things on our “to do” lists, but at least I was home.

 I arrived home and went straight to bed--I had barely slept in the past four days. The next morning, Noah called Greg from Colorado telling him that the ball joint on his truck broke and he was on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck. He was so upset that he didn’t want to tell me—because he knew that every day it seemed there was more bad news. But a mama has to talk to and comfort her son (no matter how old). He was not only upset about his car, but about the money needed to fix it and the unrelenting streak of bad news we had been experiencing. He described it in a perfect way…He said, “I feel like we have wave upon wave crashing upon us and we can’t get out of the water to get air.” True that. I wasn’t going to give him some Biblical passage or Christian cliché. Together we admitted that all of this absolutely sucked, that we were indeed in a “shit storm.” No other way to put it. But as I talked to my son who was far away in Colorado and I couldn’t hug him or be there with him, we shared our grief and our pain with God on the phone together. This whole shit storm was something we couldn’t comprehend. We didn’t know why God was allowing all this to happen in quick succession. We didn’t know why expenses were piling up and phone calls always brought bad news, and why more and more appointments and to do lists added to our already stressed lives. 

After we calmed down a bit, I told Noah that over the next days and weeks we would look for the many glimpses that God gives us of hope, beauty and joy. We texted each other daily and told each other what glimpses God had given us that day. We made it through each day. I took my car in to get repaired. I talked with my sister daily regarding our to do lists on the “business of death.” Noah wrote his papers and took his finals. I met my radiation oncologist and found out my treatment plan. We moved forward with glimpses of God’s provision and love; glimpses of joy, beauty and hope.

My treatment plan begins next week. I will have radiation treatments five days a week for six weeks. Simultaneously, I will take a chemotherapy pill twice per day. Once the six weeks are over, I will have a rest and recovery time for about 4-6 weeks. Then I will have surgery to remove the mass and possible chemotherapy and radiation after the surgery recovery. This is a long process—longer than I expected—BUT it is a plan. A plan that has a positive outcome if all goes well. As the doctor was explaining all this to me, I said, “So here’s the deal—I have a graduating senior—he is class president and giving the speech at the ceremony….will this be finished by then?” I mean, I am a planner, and having cancer disrupts all my plans. He told me with a positive attitude that all should be finished by that time.

Now I know that doesn’t mean everything will go smoothly from this point on. Believe me, I have experienced trials and disruptions over and over. Many of you have as well, because people, that is life. It’s how we navigate the journey through the good and bad, the pain and the joy, the darkness and the light that carries us through this life. For me and my family, the only way to do that is through Jesus Christ. Emmanuel, God with Us. When the waves are crashing and we feel like we are drowning, and when the sea is calm and we feel at peace, Emmanuel is always with us. My friend Leah gave me a necklace that has a charm on it that says, “Mightier than the waves of the sea, is His love for me.” God is mighty, even when the waves crash. God is holy, even as the sea is calm. His waves are waves of grace. No matter where we are or what we are going through--mighty God, Emmanuel, reveals Himself through glimpses of joy, beauty and hope. I pray you will find your glimpses this season.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Beauty in the Broken


Our world is broken. We see the pain and suffering in our cities and across the globe. I pray for our world and I pray that people would see hope within the midst of suffering. This week our family got slammed with our own suffering. It came after a beautiful week I had in Fort Collins, Colorado with my son Noah and my husband Greg, plus my sister Karen and my mom Ann. We were there to celebrate Noah’s 21st birthday and my mom’s 80th birthday. It was perfect fall weather—windy and cold and the fall leaves were all over the ground. It was the weekend of the lighting of all the trees in Old Town where all the shops, pubs and restaurants are. It was truly magical—it looked like we were surrounded with stars and snow. We ate well, hiked, toured the campus, shopped, and shared lots of memories and made new ones together. It was a weekend filled with love and laughter.

The day before I left for Colorado I had the biopsy on the mass in my pelvic region. I was told I would hear the results in seven to ten days. I headed to Colorado with my focus on hope and happiness with my family. I didn’t want to think about the mass or the biopsy (but of course it was always in my thoughts)—I just didn’t talk about it.  My week ended with a cancelled flight in Denver and an overnight stay and a rescheduled flight that took me to Phoenix and then home, 24 hours later than expected. While I was waiting in the airport, I received a call from my oncologist’s office with a message saying that my doctor wanted to see me the next day. I absolutely knew what that meant.  I called my oncologist’s nurse and left a message that said, “Hey I know what this means, and I have been down this road so many times, so please call me back or have Dr. Reid call me back and just give me the news.” After I left the message, I had to board my first flight to Phoenix and couldn’t receive calls. When I got to Phoenix, I checked my phone and my doctor had called. He said to call him back. At this point it was 8 pm and I was boarding another plane, but I knew--I absolutely knew that the mass was cancer. I arrived home exhausted and on Tuesday morning (election day), I called the nurse and said the same thing—to please just call me and give me the news. She called me back within the hour and said that they usually don’t give this news over the phone, but she and my doctor agreed that I have been down this road so she told me. The official medical news is that the mass is “adenocarcinoma consistent with original colon cancer.” In real people terms it means that the mass is cancer that originated with my colon cancer. The mass is not on an organ, but it is pushing against my kidney. I went into business mode and made the needed appointments and then contacted my insurance company to make sure they were approving it all.  I now have two appointments next week: one with my oncologist and one with the colon surgeon. They will be giving me my treatment plan which I hope and pray is not extensive. My mind is racing with thoughts of chemo, radiation, surgery—all which I have been through before—and have much anxiety associated with all of them.

Now I sit in the waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Something that I am not good at—this waiting. It is hard for me, but I have learned much about waiting these past five years. Waiting means trusting. Trusting God that He knows even when I don’t. I will admit that it is hard to trust God in this. This will be round four of cancer in the past five years. It is unrelenting. I struggle to pray for strength and hope. I don’t have it on my own. I only receive the strength and hope from Jesus. I know it is okay to scream out to God and pour my doubts and fears upon Him. He knows. He suffered before me. He was mocked, misunderstood, abandoned by his friends, beaten, and then crucified. But he conquered all that with His resurrection. He conquered it for you and for me. He knows my pain and He knows yours.

On the evening that I found out that the mass was cancer, people poured into my home. Friends from church, my former church, my neighborhood, our Poway community, my Young Life family. My house was filled to the brim—people on the floor, in the kitchen, up the stairs, in the entry. Angela, Aaron and Wesley played guitars and led us in beautiful, precious worship. We all sang together and cried out to the Lord. My friend Molly led the prayers and my friends interceded in prayer for me with so much love and hope and victory. I had not cried the whole day, but the minute people started pouring into my house I couldn’t stop crying. I cried the whole night. But it was a beautiful cry. It was crying in my pain and suffering. It was also a crying of joy because I am surrounded by this amazing community who overwhelms me with love. A crying of hope because I have a God who understands, who knows, whose arms are around me in the midst of this horrible storm that I do not understand.  Beauty in the broken.

The next morning I had to take our sweet dog Moses to the vet. He had been lethargic and not eating or drinking.  The vet took X-rays and a blood panel and showed me the film of the X-ray and told us he needed an ultrasound. She was concerned about the fluid in his body and what looked like a mass on his spleen. I was breathless and holding back the tears. I couldn’t look at another scan with another mass. It was too much. So Greg took Moses to the ultrasound and we received more horrible news. Moses has cancer in his liver and spleen and has internal bleeding. It is inoperable and the vet said he may have one-two weeks left. We had to come home and tell Micah and then call Noah in Colorado. Two pieces of horrible news within two days. I seriously went numb. I couldn’t pray or call out to God. Thankfully our sweet friend Terri had brought us dinner and the three of us ate a delicious meal and talked together as a family. After that I went into my room and got on my knees with my Bible and I told God that I had no words. Then I sat in the waiting and the quiet. I went to God's Word. I went to a familiar verse—one that I have read many times over the years.

Philippians 4:6-7
Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I sat there and thanked God for who He is even though I don’t understand all that I have gone through. He is still on the throne. He is still majestic and holy. I believe that. I know that. He has shown me so much beauty in the brokenness. So much joy amidst the pain.

The verse says to tell God what I need. So I told Him that I need His peace. This peace is described as a peace that exceeds anything we can understand. That is the peace I want.

Friends, would you join me in praying for peace? Not only peace for me, but peace for many others who are suffering across the globe. Peace for our nation. Peace for our world. Peace in our hearts.
I don’t know what is ahead of me until I meet with the doctors next week. I am in the waiting. But amidst the waiting God has shown me so much beauty in the broken. He is giving me glimpses of His glory. He is giving me friends who stand in the gap when I cannot pray. He is giving me loving friends who bring meals and who drop off flowers and cards. He is giving me text messages from friends who are reaching out with love and hope. Friends who are offering encouragement. He is giving me beauty in the love of my family and my boys. We are all going through this together, but we see the beauty in the broken. And we wait.