Tuesday, July 31, 2012

God is GOOD, so good.

God is good. The UVA doctors feel that surgery is an option. We are awaiting final pathology reports and a second opinion from Johns Hopkins on August 9th, but I am tentatively scheduled for brain surgery to remove about half the tumor on August 14th. Then I will begin radiation and chemotherapy about two weeks later. The surgeon yesterday said that although it's too early to say, the current plan should give me a better long term outlook than we had last week. I appreciate each new day.
It's so good to have hope in the Lord.

I was so scared yesterday morning.  I guess I am still wired from the adrenalin and stress from these past two weeks. 

I wanted to share the devotionals from yesterday, July 30th and from today, July 31st.  I haven't really read devotionals until this past week, when Ginny Atwood kindly and generously dropped them off at my house.  Thank you Ginny.  I believe that the Lord is working in my life to encourage others and give hope.  And maybe my writing down how the devotionals have affected my life in this present time is a way to do this.  Through this blog.  And facebook.  Who would have thought that facebook could be used to glorify God!? We have been blessed by the kindness of friends and strangers.  So blessed.  We can't thank you individually enough.  I will try to though. 

Ok here is the devotional from Stormie Omartian's "Prayers for Emotional Wholeness" for July 30th (the day Zev and I traveled 2.5 hours north to meet with the University of Virginia neurosurgeon brain tumor specialists.  I was so nervous and scared, especially about taking in what they had to say and making a decision affecting my health.  I am so thankful for Zev, my wonderful, patient, gorgeous, generous husband.  How did I get so blessed?)

Lord, I turn to You as the solid rock on which I stand and ask that You would lead me in the way I should go.  I don't want to take a step without knowing You are leading me.  Even when I must make a quick decision, help me to do so with great accuracy because of the wisdom and the knowledge You have put in me.  Make me sensitive to the presence and leading of Your Holy Spirit in my heart. 

"You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name's sake, lead me and guide me."  Psalm 31:3

Prophetic, huh?  I prayed that part about the Lord leading me to make a quick decision with my husband and my parents-in-law before we drove out to the university.  This experience has taught me to value people.  To tell them when I cherish them. 

And here is the devotional for today:

Lord, I seek Your face right now and ask that as I look to You, You will guide me where I need to go.  Your presence comforts me, and the knowledge that I am walking in Your will makes me confident and secure.  Help me to come to You every day for guidance and not try to do things on my own.  Enable me to keep my eyes on You at all times. 

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye."  Psalm 32:8

I am not out of the woods yet.  Hey, I still have to have major brain surgery and then chemotherapy and radiation and pray that this tumor shrinks and that I have a life to live.  But I have hope.  And hope is what sustains us on this earth.  I never thought I would be excited about having my head cut open and undergoing a brain surgery that lasts about 5 hours.  I am so grateful for each day on this planet though.  I look forward to my time in Heaven, but for now I ask that the Lord keep me on this earth just a little longer so I can see my son grow up and speak to me and I can share God's love with others. 

Here in closing is the devotional for today from the Sarah Young devotional called "Jesus Calling." 

Trust Me in the depths of your being.  It is there that I live in constant communion with you.  When you feel flustered and frazzled on the outside, do not get upset with yourself.  You are only human, and the swirl of events going on all around you will sometimes feel overwhelming.  Rather than scolding yourself for your humanness, remind yourself that I am both with you and within you.

I am with you at all times, encouraging and supporting rather than condemning.  I know that deep within you, where I live, My Peace is your continual experience.  Slow down your pace of living for a time.  Quiet your mind in My Presence.  Then you will be able to hear Me bestowing the resurrection blessing:  Peace be with you.

And here is what I thought was appropriate, the Scripture verse quoted:

"To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory."  Colossians 1:27.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dear Zachary

I'm sorry that I can't breastfeed you anymore.  I know, another random, probably way too much information for the internet post.  But I just had to write this down so you remembered.  At 5am, I fed you your bottle, a 5oz bottle of Gerber Good Start formula.  I don't know why it bothers me that I can't breastfeed you.  Maybe because it signified a special bond between you and I, although your daddy says that we still have that bond, it's just different now.  I feel cheated that last Monday, July 16th, I breastfed you for the last time.  I tried to pump in the hospital and kept asking the doctors when I could go back to breastfeeding you.  They didn't say that I couldn't ever breastfeed you again but when I asked the oncologist last Wednesday whether I should keep pumping and dumping, she said that it was best to look after my body first and feed you formula.  I am on Keppra for seizures and Dexamethasone which is a steroid to reduce the edema in my head, which is why I can no longer breastfeed you.  I understand that it's what's best for you and I accept that.  I have never been on medication except for the Pre-Natal vitamin before.  I miss our 4pm feedings when I would gently rock you in the glider in your nursery and look out onto our beautiful backyard and feel the sunshine on my face.  Those were special times.  You would look into my eyes and smile.  You would gurgle and coo and sleep so contentedly afterwards.  Those smiles of satisfaction.  I don't see the same smiles now with formula.  Of course I know that lots of women before me have fed formula to their babies and that they have just as special a bond.  But there was something so intimate, so special about this bond that you and I had with breastfeeding.  You ate less frequently on the breast; every 3 to 4 hours as opposed to every 2 hours on the bottle.  You also don't seem to be satisfied with just 4 ounces as I am making you 3 to 4 ounces and sometimes 5 ounces in the bottle.  I just miss it.  I am grateful that God gave me the gift of being able to breastfeed you, if only for 14 weeks.  And to think that I had bought the pump and the hooter hider and all the accessories that go with breastfeeding!  I am grateful for the opportunity to breastfeed you, Zachary.  I will always have fond memories of this time.
You are so precious to me.
This is an "old" picture because you are so much bigger now.  We think you weigh about 17.5 pounds!  Man, when Judy and Dave arrive from New York tonight, they won't be able to believe their eyes!  I just love the tender look that Zev is giving you as he holds you after being apart from you during a TDY.  He loves you so much, Zachary.  I am so honored that he is your daddy.  He is a great role model to have.

I woke up this morning and did some quiet time with the Lord.  I have been afraid to get intimate with the Lord.  Like, I pray to Him but to really listen to what is being said back is another thing.  Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10.  Maybe if I were being completely honest with myself, I am afraid of what He will say to me asking for a miracle healing.  I have to be honest and acknowledge that He may say no.  It's not in my Plan.  His Plan is always Perfect though.  I trust in that.  I have a peace that God will be glorified through my experiences.  I am confident that God can miraculously heal me.  And maybe He chooses to do it. 

I felt a message this morning as I sat out with my smoothie and daily devotional and Bible and pen and journal that I need to fulfill my role as an encourager.  I have had a rough week.  This has been the toughest journey of my life but I draw strength from the positive people in my life.  Strength from people's messages on facebook, from emails, from cards and notes and phone calls.  Strength from stories of hope, of survival.  Thank you for all your kindness.  I feel overwhelmed.  I want to encourage you all to Be Still today and reflect on God.  Even if it's just for a moment as you read this blog post.  My encouragement to you encourages me!  Crazy as that seems :-)) I just love you.

Ok, here is the devotional that I read this morning.  I am having one of those "turn the pages" of the Bible or the devotional and EVERYTHING seems to apply.  Isn't that funny?

Seek My Face, and you will find fulfillment of your deepest longings.  My world is filled with beautiful things; they are meant to be pointers to Me, reminders of My abiding Presence.  The earth still declares My Glory to those who have eyes that see and ears that hear. 

You had a darkened mind before you sought Me wholeheartedly.  I chose to pour My Light into you, so that you can be a beacon to others.  There is no room for pride in this position.  Your part is to reflect My Glory.  I am the Lord!

And the Bible quotes that are referenced:  Psalm 105:4: Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Isaiah 60:2: See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

So true.  I am going to be an Encourager today.  And go kiss my husband and my son who are still asleep :-))

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The day that I collapsed and everything changed and yet I saw God'shand and was at peace

I know that this is an odd way to title this post, but it is 7.48am on Saturday morning, July 28th, 2012 and I wanted to convey what has been happening in my life these past few weeks.  This week has been interesting.  I say that with a smile on my face because when I think about how it all started, on Monday, July 16th, I see that really that day was normal, like any other day.  I made Zev his smoothie and coffee and note for his lunch box as I do every morning and then I took Zachary to Baby Garten at the local library and we sang and talked with the other mums.  I then came home, had some lunch, fed Zachary and then at about noon, went out into the driveway to put him in the car to drop him off at Penny's up the road for her daughters to babysit him while I went to the dentist.  I never made it to the dentist.  And here is the first instance of where I saw God's hand last Monday, July 16th and why I have a peace that surpasses all understanding about this whole situation.  You can call it a crazy situation, it's ok :-)

The fact that I was found passed out on my driveway at high noon on that hot day (I think it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit!), with the door open and Zachary sitting peacefully in his car seat.  We live on a fairly well traveled road and there was a lady a neighbor, Susanne, who I had never met before but who drove by and saw me passed out.  I had apparently passed out straight back, probably towards my left shoulder because my left side of my head hurt in the hospital afterwards.  She came to visit me in the hospital and said she thought I was sun tanning but said that this didn't register.  She was nice.  She said when she came to visit me that I tried to speak but I was doing something weird with my left hand and my legs were twitching.  I have never had a seizure before, so this scared me.  Also, when one has a seizure, one cannot drive for 6 months.  I know this sounds crazy, but I can't wait to drive again.  I can't thank her enough for coming.  Penny said later that Audrey drove by with her friends and came on over and called her mum.  I am so grateful that they did (another instance of God's divine hand playing a part) and that they took immediate action and took Zachary and cared for him and made sure he was safe.  I thank God that I wasn't driving or worse, that I had passed out indoors.  I was meant to pass out where people could see me and for this I am grateful.  I am so grateful for Zachary's well being.

This is hard for me to write, as there are so many thoughts all in my head and yet I want to make sure I get them down so that I can remember them.  I remember seeing the face of the EMT man in the ambulance.  He was an older man with a moustache and he looked really concerned.  I remember trying to smile at him and speak to him and reassure him that everything was ok!  Isn't that funny, me remembering trying to reassure him?  I never saw him again and I hope he knows how grateful I am for the quick reaction in getting me to Riverside ER.  I next remember the ER room and some nurses coming in and taking my vitals.  I remember seeing stuff as I was wheeled around like those wooden blocks that say "Believe."  I saw two of them; one was pink and sparkly and the other was black.  I remember being asked my name and address and being able to answer these questions.  I remember asking "what happened?" and being told I had passed out.  I remember asking about my son, where was he and being told he was being taken care of by a neighbor.  So many images and sounds.  I remember Zev coming in and being with me; that felt so nice.  I felt loved and reassured.  I remember my ER doctor not having a sense of humor.  I faulted him then but you know what, I can understand him now.  I told him he was joking when he came back with the MRI and CT scans and told me point blank that I have a brain tumor.  I told him twice "you're joking." He told me "I don't joke about these things."  He showed compassion when I started to cry.  He pressed my arm.  Being an ER doc is a hard job; dealing with life and death every day.  I can't blame him.  I will pray for him though.  Maybe today he will have a nice day.

I had a feeling of sadness come over me just now, but I logged onto facebook and saw my status entry for Monday, July 16th:   Listening to my son gurgle and coo in the swing while I drink my coffee. Life is good... 

A nurse intern at the hospital asked me what my son's name was and when I said Zachary, she asked "do you know what that means?"  Zev and I said "yes, it means the Lord remembers."  The Lord will remember Zachary.  I love him and Zev so much.  So much.  I want to live for them and I will fight this awful cancer diagnosis.  I want Zachary to remember his mum as a fighter, as a positive spirit and a generous spirit.  I will look over him and Zev from Heaven and although it sounds morbid to talk this way, one day when I am in Heaven, I will smile down on them.  I am getting sad now.  I have a mind to discard this post but I have to post it.  For memory's sake. 

I just read the daily entry from the devotional that my friend Natalie gave me this week.  July 28th:

Let my love seep into the inner recesses of your being.  Do not close off any part of yourself from Me.  I know you inside and out, so do not try to to present a "cleaned-up" self to Me.  Wounds that you shut away from the Light of My Love will fester and become wormy.  Secret sins that you "hide" from Me can split off and develop lives of their own, controlling you without your realizing it.  Open yourself fully to My transforming Presence.  Let My brilliant Love-Light search out and destroy hidden fears.  This process requires time alone with Me, as My Love soaks into your innermost being.  Enjoy My perfect Love, which expels every trace of fear.

Psalm 139: 1-4 and 23-24.  1 John 4:18

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Gift of Time

Hello friends. Thank you all so much for your amazing outpouring of love and support and above all, prayers. I am sorry for not being able to write you all back individually; I will in due time :-) Update from me: The visit with the oncologist did not go well yesterday.  High grade anaplastic glioma. Prognosis: a good goal would be to survive the next 12 months. Next step will be to undergo radiation and chemotherapy. Surgery is not an option in my case. 

I am meeting with Dr. David Schiff, the head Neuro-Oncologist at the UVA on Monday morning. I am also meeting with Dr. Grossman and hopefully Dr. Brem at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on August 9th for third opinions. A dear friend, Natalie Arlint shared something so sweet with me this morning; she said I had been given the gift of time.  So I hope to use this time to tell you all that I love you and to share with you that I believe in the love of Christ. 

Thank you for all the support and prayers. I believe in miracles.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

So...I have brain cancer

So...I have brain cancer. I got diagnosed with it after I collapsed this Monday. I have seen God's hand at work in so many ways. "Beloved, do not be surprised when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening... to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:12-13. 
I am at home recovering from my brain biopsy and will begin chemotherapy and radiation in the coming weeks. I have an awesome network of friends and family, especially my husband and my son. 
Thank you for all the love and support.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Guess who is 3 months old today?!!

Our beautiful baby boy, Zachary, is 3 months old today.  Zachary, your daddy and I love you more and more each day.  Just when I thought you couldn't get any cuter, I wake up the next day and....bam!  You're cuter and sweeter than ever.  Thank you for being such a blessing to us.  You mean more to us than words can express.
Zachary, you are now sitting up in your Bumbo that Gena and Hans bought you (thank you Gena and Hans!)  You have excellent neck muscles and you are also holding onto things.  You are also able to focus and observe small things, like the animals on your burp cloths.
You are talking up a storm.  When I go in to feed you for your 5 am feeding, you are so "chatty".  Even though I am tired and have one eye open, I think it is so cute.  I smile at you and that makes you smile SO BIG at me.  Your eyes get wide and you develop a big grin from ear to ear.  You know how to melt my heart, young man...
Your face lights up when your daddy comes home from work.  It's pretty cute to watch.  When daddy is away and you see his face on the computer screen during Skype, your eyes get wide and you smile big.  We love you to bits, son.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

"Such a good boy"

In writing this post today, I have to start by saying that Zachary is a gift from God.  When I say that our baby is "such a good boy", I am giving total glory to God.  We are brand new, fumbling parents, learning every day.  The fact that we have been blessed with a good, happy, easy-going baby is truly a blessing.  I want to record our memories for Zachary to some day look back on these blog posts (we print our blog books) and remember how much we loved him, right from the beginning.  We would of course love him nonetheless if he were a "fussy" baby, but the fact that he is so mellow and good is something worth remembering.  Zachary is doing very well health wise.  He continues to put on weight and seems to be growing fast, right before our eyes.  We think he weighs about 15 pounds (6.8 kilos; we weighed ourselves on the home scale) and he is getting longer every day.  He is almost rolling over; he is sucking his thumb; he gurgles and giggles and makes all sorts of sounds;  he imitates daddy, like when daddy sticks his tongue out or when daddy points his foot;  he eats well every 3 to 4 hours (probably closer to every 4 hours now) and.....(drumroll!) last night he slept 7 hours!!!!!!!! Woo hooo!!  Of course Zev and I still feel tired (we are looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow!) but we are so happy for our son.  We say to each other "he is such a good boy" many times a day.  When people compliment him and ask us how he is doing, we say "he is such a good boy."  He smiles when I come to his crib in the mornings; smiles when he sees daddy come home at night; smiles while being fed and changed and is just a happy boy.  We maintain a simple schedule and he feeds on demand, but I think this helps him be a happy, well adjusted little boy.  I think that his first word is "hi" (I am telling you, I have heard him say "hi" to me in the mornings!)  Anyhoo, I am going to post some pictures for the family to see how our boy is doing.  Much love to all!

Zev, Fifi and Zachary xo

I love his thighs and his feet.  I like to kiss his feet and this makes him smile.
The view this morning, after I fed him and put him down for a nap.  He has been asleep from 6am until now!  Incidentally, he slept a lot yesterday....I remember reading in Dr. Sears' baby book that a well rested baby sleeps well at night...so true! 
Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Cor 1:31