Monday, July 31, 2017

Celebrate and Praise

Six weeks ago Ed started what seemed to be a daunting treatment regime. Six weeks of daily oral chemo (7 days a week) and radiation (5 days a week.) 

They gave us the list of side effects. The type of chemo he was taking is usually well-tolerated, we were told. But after the first day of violent vomiting, Ed thought six weeks looked long. But with the help of an anti-nausea pill, he never had any nausea after that first day. 

But radiation had a whole list of side effects. We were told to expect that after a few weeks the radiation would cause swelling on Ed's brain and that all the effects he had with his tumor before surgery - the headaches, confusion, fatigue - even the possibility of seizures - would return. He would probably need to go back on steroids to control these effects, which Ed dreaded because it affected his ability to sleep. He was told he wouldn't be able to drive, certainly not work. 

I sat in the cancer center waiting room that first morning and figured I'd get to know that place very well if I'd drive Ed into the office every morning for six weeks. 

But that was the last time I sat in that waiting room. 

Ed has felt good the entire six weeks. Except for that first day, he has driven himself to his radiation appointments at 7:45 a.m. and then went to work. He usually came home from work mid-afternoon ready to take a nap. He still says his strength hasn't fully returned since surgery, but being able to stay busy has certainly helped him feel more sane.

Ed never had any headaches. He didn't need steroids. He has a radiation burn on his forehead and most of his hair fell out, but he has a great appetite, he sleeps well, and he says that if he had not been told differently, he would not know there was anything wrong with him. 

His oncologist says that Ed is doing so well because he is young and in good health. The doctor that is doing the ketogenic study says that the keto diet can help reduce inflammation and the need for steroids.  Maybe they are both right. But Ed and I are quite willing to give the glory to God. We know that so many of you have been praying for Ed. God is able to work a miracle of good health these last six weeks.

But I know that sometimes God doesn't answer our prayers the way we wish. 

Marlita is only in her early twenties and was diagnosed with cancer at about the same time as Ed. She too has a supportive church and a circle of friends and family who know how to pray. But Marlita has spent the last two months in and out of the hospital and her health continues to decline. You can check out Marlita's Caring Bridge. I don't know Marlita personally, but she is a friend of some of my friends. (Edit: On Tuesday, August 1, God answered Marlita's prayers by taking her Home.)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5
What's next for Ed? The plan is for Ed to have five days of chemo every month as a maintenance program. Since Ed responded so well to forty-two straight days chemo, five days looks relatively easy. 

Of course we are eager to find out if the treatment has made any impact on Ed's tumor. Is it growing? Staying the same? Shrinking? But the doctor says that there is no point in doing an MRI now because they can't accurately see the results until several months after radiation when the swelling has decreased. 

So we get to exercise some patience for the next two or three months.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Like a River Glorious

In the early hours of today, a 41-year-old, the father of eight children, slipped into glory after a year-long battle with advanced melanoma.

I didn't know Richard and Christine Zimmerman until a mutual friend told me that he was having brain surgery the day after Ed. Through their contact I was able to have a long phone conversation with his wife. We compared stories, but mostly I wanted to hear from Christine how she has survived the last year. Her testimony of God's grace in the midst of very hard things has been an inspiration to me.

This is a photo of Richard and Christine Zimmerman and their eight children, taken last year before his diagnosis. I ache to think of those six boys without their dad.

I've been thinking of the word to the hymn Like a River Glorious by Frances R. Havergal. In Christine's texts the last couple weeks, as Richard's physical health slipped lower and lower, she continual wrote about the mighty hand of God that was carrying them and of the strength of Richard's faith.  "They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true."

Like a River Glorious
  1. by Frances R. Havergal

  2. Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
    Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
    Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
    Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
    • Refrain:
      Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
      Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
  3. Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
    Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
    Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
    Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
  4. Every joy or trial falleth from above,
    Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
    We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
    They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Glioblastoma and King Asa

Glioblastoma. The word was in the news' headlines last week when Senator John McCain announced that he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable brain cancer.

I remember the day I first read that word. On May 12, two days after a MRI showed a tumor in Ed's brain, I read over Ed's radiology report. I saw the words "Assume glioblastoma until proven otherwise" and a few keystrokes later had googled "glioblastoma." The startling statistics made me quickly exit the page and hope the pathology report would indeed prove otherwise. But ten days later the diagnosis came back: Glioblastoma Multiforme or GBM.

There are some words that almost instantly define who you are. Words like orphan, quadriplegic, blind, refugee, and GBM. For Ed (and for Senator McCain, Senator Kennedy, Beau Biden, and so many others) life can become defined as before GBM and after GBM.

I've had lots of time in the past two months to consider our reactions to a health crisis.

The first reaction is often fear. We are confronted with something we cannot fully control. We fear suffering and pain, both physical and emotional. We are afraid of the medical decisions, treatments, side effects, and the unknowns. We fear death and separation.

Anger is another option. When God allows our health to be taken, we find out how important our health is. Sometimes health has stolen the place that belongs to God and become an idol. When we lose something that we think belongs to us, something we think we deserve, it is easy to become bitter.

I've heard Ed say more than once in the last weeks that we don't think we are that person in James who boasts about what he plans to do. (You can read it here in James 4:13-16.) But when you are told your life, without a miracle, may be measured in months instead of years, you realize that God is right (of course) and that life is truly a vapor. Ed and I are trying to heed the command "For that ye ought to say, 'If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.' " (James 4:15)

I think it is normal and right to desire life. We want to care for our bodies as the temple of God, (1 Cor. 6:19) and God gives us wisdom to research cures for illness. I have spent hours reading medical information on GBM and the fine print of clinical trials. I could possibly find hope in the statistics that say that Ed's age of forty, his good health, and the location of his tumor all are to his advantage. But I think it is wiser to look at our human frailty and place our hope in God alone. 

A few weeks ago a Home Joys reader brought the story of King Asa to my attention. When Asa was a young man faced with an attack from a huge army, he prayed "Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power; help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude." (2 Chron 14:11)  And the Lord delivered Asa from his enemies and he experienced years of peace.

But when Asa was 36 years old, another enemy came against his country. This time, instead of calling on God, Asa took the gold from the temple of God and sent it to a neighboring nation asking for their assistance. And it seemed to work; they were able to drive out the enemy.

But God sent Hanani the prophet to King Asa. Hanani reminded Asa of God's deliverance in the past and told him "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." (2 Chron 16:9) He predicted that Asa would now have wars because he had not turned to God.

Did King Asa repent and turn back to God? No. He was so angry with the prophet that he put Hanani in prison. He also began to oppress his people.

A few years later King Asa had a disease in his feet. The Bible says that it was an "exceeding great" disease. Maybe God was hoping that a physical illness would help Asa see his need for God, but 2 Chronicles 16:12 says that "in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians." At age 41, the king that had started his career serving God and destroying idols, died. 

The lesson is obvious. When we look at the facts of our human weakness, especially evident with a disease like glioblastoma, we must trust God. Sometimes God's best answer to our prayers is a glorious life with Him. We don't have to fear the death of our physical body, but should fear the spiritual death that comes from a soul filled with bitterness. (Matthew 10:28)

O Lord our God, we rest on thee.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Little Get-Away

A few photos of our little anniversary get-away last weekend.

If you are looking for a quiet spot in the mountains of central Pennsylvania, back a long lane, with no cell-phone service or wi-fi, where you can't hear or see any people or vehicles - I recommend the Sweethearts' Country Cottage. 

Ed and I always enjoy cooking together. Brings back memories of our honeymoon cabin in Alaska where we cooked up lots of good eating.

I even wore the dress I wore on our honeymoon - not that Ed would have noticed or remembered. Some of these things we women do for our own enjoyment.

This food blog sure hasn't seen much mention of food the last two months. Ed continues the ketogetic diet, but we are now making our own food instead of the doctor-supplied meals. Being away from home made meals a challenge, we especially missed stopping for ice cream, but we managed to eat well. This night we made garlic-rosemary chicken with bacon and steamed broccoli. 

The weather in the mountains was ten degrees cooler than at home and we could enjoy our coffee on the porch. But we were super glad we had AC.

Breakfast was an omelet with kale, peppers, and onion with bacon which fueled a walk in the woods.

In the past we have always visited the cottage in the winter when it was snow-covered. This time it was fun to explore the area surrounding the cottage. There were amazing stone walls; some higher than my head. We imagined the hardy farmer and his family who stacked the thousands of stones in these walls.

Ed has been missing crunchy snacks so I figured out a way to make cinnamon-roasted pecans slightly sweetened with stevia. I admit to eating more of these than he did.

Lunch was ham salad on a bed of spinach.

Then we went back to civilization and did some shopping. We went out to eat where Ed tried to choose a keto-friendly meal of fish and broccoli. I don't think we did too badly on his diet that weekend, but we weren't rigorously weighing his food and counting carbs like we do at home and his glucose numbers were higher than normal that evening.

Ed continues to lose hair from radiation and he had me shave all that remained so he needed to find a hat to protect his tender scalp.

We ended the day with some mini-golf. Ed felt incredibly good all day, but was tired by evening. By then we were refreshed, blessed, and ready to go home and be with our children again. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fifteen Years

Fifteen years ago...

I married my best friend.

We might not look twenty-five any more...

But we are still best friends.

Monday, July 17, 2017

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

I've a little embarrassed when I read about the pity party I had a few weeks ago when thinking of our anniversary.

It is still a few days until our anniversary and already it has been very special.

Last week Ed's brother and family insisted on coming to our house to stay with our six children so Ed and I could get away overnight. I think the last time we had went away overnight alone (if hospital stays don't count) was over two years ago. And that was to attend a conference.

Not only was it a treat to go away as a couple, it was super nice not to have to make babysitting arrangements - or even pack up clothes for the children - and they even brought all the meals. The list of how we have been supported and encouraged the past months is extremely long by now.

And the details fell together amazingly. I was shocked that we were able to get our favorite getaway cottage on a Friday night, only the day before. It was one of those times that we knew God had made the arrangements for us.

And Ed felt GREAT. I'm still shocked that after a month of chemo and radiation Ed felt like having a romantic night away.

We had a wonderful time and it felt like a huge gift.

I'll share photos when I get them off the camera, but for now I want to share a song whose words I can't sing without being moved. I've heard that these words were written during the author's time of personal suffering. There is so much rich meaning and depth to these words that I'm not even going to try to write a commentary but let you read them yourself.

It is so true that the life given to God becomes fuller and richer than we can ever imagine.

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
by George Matheson

  1. O Love that will not let me go,
    I rest my weary soul in thee;
    I give thee back the life I owe,
    That in thine ocean depths its flow
    May richer, fuller be.
  2. O Light that foll’west all my way,
    I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
    My heart restores its borrowed ray,
    That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
    May brighter, fairer be.
  3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
    I cannot close my heart to thee;
    I trace the rainbow through the rain,
    And feel the promise is not vain,
    That morn shall tearless be.
  4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to fly from thee;
    I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
    And from the ground there blossoms red
    Life that shall endless be.
  5. Listen to a men's choir sing these words. (If reading by email you may need to click over to the blog.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Two Questions

There is two questions I've been asked in the last weeks.

The first question..."Do you mind if I ask about Ed?"

The answer? Not at all. I know that people differ in the way that they react to things like cancer. Some may not want to talk.

But Ed and I do want to talk. Maybe we need to talk. We don't mind discussing Ed's diagnosis, the prognosis, and his treatment.

To me, dragging something out in the light, looking it over, and discussing it with friends makes it less scary. Or maybe, if still scary, at least we have the comfort of knowing that others are standing with me next to scary things.

It has been an amazing experience to talk with friends who can remind us of God's goodness in the hard times. To be reminded that all of us face death sometime and heaven is going to be better than we ever imagine. No, it doesn't make it any more fun to face death at age forty. Or think of the pain of separation. But it does help us remember what is truly important in life.

And so, if you are wondering how Ed is doing, the answer is Very Well. Physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. He is nearly finished the fourth week of his six weeks of radiation and chemo. He is still driving to radiation every morning and then going to work. He gets tired in the afternoon and usually quits work at about 3:00 and comes home for a nap. But then he feels good enough to do something in the evening.

Like grill his awesome smoked pork loin. (Recipe found in an old issue of Cooks Illustrated.)

I expected Ed would spend most of the summer sick in bed, but we've been able to attend family reunions, church picnics, and so on. Ed does tire quickly so we haven't went camping, biking, or hiking, but as long as he can stay near his lawn chair, he enjoys staying part of activities.

(Above photos taken at Warrior's Path State Park on July 4th.)

The last few days he did start losing hair from the radiation. I don't think it looks bad, not worse than many other forty-year-old's receding hairline. But Ed is getting tired of shedding and threatens to shave the rest of his hair.

The second question is maybe the opposite of the first and definitely the most common..."I know you have other things on your mind right now, but do you mind if I ask you a question about _____________(fill in the blank with gardening, bread baking, homeschooling, etc)?"

My answer to that question is "please do." Again, I know that people vary, but I want you to ask how Ed is doing. I want you to show that you care about what we are going through right now. But then I want to talk about something normal. I want to know what is going on in your life.

In some ways cancer is now defining our life. But in many ways, life is the same as always.

I'm still a mom. (Who even with a cutie with pigtails, hasn't become Super Mom and still needs a double dose of grace most days.)

I'm still homeschooling and reading many books with my children. (We actually just began school last week with our crazy July to April school schedule!)

I still cook three meals (and many snacks) every day. In the few minutes I've been sitting here I've had two children tell me they are starving. Last week I actually baked a batch of bread which was the first in many many weeks. It took some of the joy from it since Ed isn't eating carbs, thus no bread, but my children appreciated it.

I still have interests in life. The other week I was able to meet three friends for lunch. We spent four hours talking about books, writing, and motherhood and I came away feeling refreshed deep down to my toes.

I still have a garden. On Tuesday evening, Ed actually joined the children and I in weeding. Most of our garden has been mulched with cardboard and grass clippings but the section that wasn't had a  carpet of weeds. It was the first time Ed has been in the garden since April.

Last week we had two inches of rain and the green beans, carrots, and tomatoes have never looked better.

There may come a time in this journey that all normal life will come to a screeching halt. We learned in May how quickly life can transform.

But we have also learned how God can carry us through both the normal and the tragic, the delightful and the devastating, and how grief can still be full of grace.

And even in the best of the normal days there are some things that are not so delightful, such as the infestation of Japanese Beetles on our grapes, raspberries, and green beans. So I'll end with two questions for you.

Do you have a solution against Japanese Beetles?
Do the Japanese Beetle traps actually work?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Bookmarks: Middle-Grade Historical Fiction Continued

Here is the continuation of the historical fiction list for middle grades.

Morning Girl by Michael Dorris
What was life like for the native Americans that met Columbus' ship? This historical fiction tries to fill in some details of life on a Caribbean island before the first white men arrived and tells the story of Morning Girl and her brother, Star Boy.

Nhuong loves the new family water buffalo. He is gentle as a dog and brave enough to fight off wild pigs and protect the herd. True stories of country life in Vietnam before the war. Boys will love this one. I give it five stars.

The Secret Valley by Clyde Robert Bulla
The Davis family left their home in Missouri to go to California to find gold. Though they don't find gold, the family finds what they really want. Sweet illustrations and short chapters make this a good introductory book on pioneer life. I've enjoyed every Bulla book I've ever read.

Song of Sampo Lake by William Durbin
Matti and his family dream of a new home in Minnesota, but working in the mine is not the new life they imagined when they left Finland. This historical fiction shows the determination of America's immigrants. Note: Contains some superstitious beliefs.

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
As Tree-ear hunted through the rubbish heap for food, he longed to be a great potter like Min. Into the fictional story of the orphan and his crippled friend, Crane-man, is woven history of the famous Korean celadon pottery. One of my favorites. Check out Park's other books for more excellent reading.

Jason's Gold by Will Hobbs
Jason joins the crowds headed to the Klondike gold fields expecting to find his fortune but instead he encounters freezing cold, wild moose, and multiple set-backs. An excellent historical fiction on the Klondike Gold Rush but some of the raw details may not be enjoyed by a sensitive child.

Nory Ryan's Song by Patricia Reilly Giff
Through Nory's eyes we see the beauty and hardship of her beloved Ireland during the potato famine of 1845. This book helps you understand why so many Irish immigrated to America.  Note: references to superstitious beliefs.

Seesaw Girl by Linda Sue Park
Jade is curious to see the world outside her family's Inner Court. Will she learn to be content? A sweet story from seventeenth-century Korea and another good book by Park.

When the Sirens Wailed by Noel Streatfeild
Three children are sent out of London along with thousands of other children to escape the bombing during World War 2. They face the uncertainties with pluck and creativity as they try to reunite their family again. Realistic details stem from the author's own memories as a volunteer worker in war-time London.

What are your favorite books for the time traveler? I'd love to add more to my list of favorites. You can find more of my book lists on the book page.

This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Bookmarks: Middle-Grade Historical Fiction

At the beginning of May (which now feels like a year ago) I started sharing some middle-grade books that I had preread for my children. I never shared the last list and since unfinished projects bother me, I'm going to share it today.

Historical fiction is my favorite genre for my children to read because it is such an effortless way to learn about history. This is certainly not an complete list, just ones I've read in recent years that I considered high literary quality and excellent content. Choose a book or two for your child's summer reading.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Maine is a long way from Kansas and Jack is floundering both from the loss of his mother and his new home at a boy's boarding school. Then he meets Early, the strangest boy he ever met and the two boys embark on a quest to find a great black bear. Even with some unrealistic plot twists, I enjoyed this book set immediately after World War 2.

Early Thunder by Jean Fritz
Salem is in the middle of the conflict between the Patriots and the British and Daniel has a choice to make. By the end of the year he has decided which side he will join. My husband actually read this one and said it was excellent historical fiction from 1775.

Shirley arrives from China excited about her new home in Brooklyn. She loves America but wishes for a friend. Based on the author's childhood in 1947.

Sing Down the Moon by Scott O'Dell
Bright Morning celebrates the arrival of spring and the promise of an abundant harvest in the Canyon de Chelly. But when the soldiers destroy their homes and force the Navahos to march to Fort Sumner, will Bright Morning and Tall Boy find hope to rebuild? Beautiful written, tragic (but hopeful) story based on true events.

Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan
The 1919 influenza takes Rachel Sheridan's missionary parents and leave her at the mercy of cruel neighbors. Will she be able to tell the truth and return to her beloved Africa? A fun fiction story about a missionary family in Kenya written from a secular perspective.

The Belonging Place by Jean Little
Elspet has already lost her parents, now her uncle wants to move from Scotland to the wilds of Upper Canada. Will she ever find a real home and a place to belong?

Danny had just moved to Hawaii where his mother served as a nurse. He longs to return to his home in New York until the day that the Japanese attack the island. Short chapters and large print make this a great first historical fiction book for young readers. This book is part of the excellent “I Survived” series.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Holling is the only one in his seventh grade class in Long Island who doesn't either go to Hebrew school or Catholic school so in his spare Wednesday afternoon his teacher assigns him to read Shakespeare. A peek into life in 1968, including the Vietnam War, Yankee games, King assassination, and school life.

This list is getting long. I'll share the rest next week.

My other middle-grade lists are realistic fiction and fantasy.

This post contains affiliate links.


Related Posts with Thumbnails