Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sarah's upcoming surgery

Sarah's "froggy hug" Daddy made for her and her real stethoscope

So....today was Sarah's pre-op appointment with the surgeon for her upcoming enucleation on Monday. Enucleation is a fancy word meaning eyeball removal. She will be getting her right eye (the small, blind one) removed, and her left seeing one examined with possible treatment to zap the little tumors that are likely still in there.

When Sarah was originally diagnosed with cancer, her tumor was so large, it filled her entire eyeball/socket including some of her optic nerve. I learned today that the doctors sort of assumed that it was so bad they would end up having to remove not just the eyeball, but all of the contents of the eye socket, including muscles, tissues, everything. I didn't know this, but what that meant was that she would end up looking pretty disfigured, and most likely would not have been able to even wear a prosthetic eye. I was pretty stunned by that thought, and even more thankful that God helped the chemo to work so well that the tumor shrunk beyond all of the doctors' hopes, making it pretty manageable to remove with a simple enucleation. Meaning...that if all goes according to plan, she will look just as beautiful as ever when all is said and done with a perfectly matched prosthetic eye, which the doctor said she could get in about 5 weeks!

The surgery is outpatient and will only take about 40 minutes (plus the time the other doctor takes on his procedure on the other eye.) She will wear a patch and bandage for about 5 days, and there shouldn't be a big risk of infection. The other doctor is trying to save the vision in her good eye. There are two small tumors in there that are the type that don't typically respond well to chemo. He will check them out that day and decide which treatment option to try-- laser or cryotherapy (freezing.)

Please pray that the surgeon gets all the tumor out of the small eye. He won't be able to know if he got it all until it's all done. There is still a chance he will have to go in later and remove everything out of that socket, and my mommy's heart really really doesn't want that to happen. Also, please pray that she will be able to keep her vision in her good eye. After these treatments she could end up with blind spots or other damage. I am praying that she will end up with none of this! God is always good, and He is in control. We continue to trust Him!

The surgery is Monday morning at 7:30. We appreciate your prayers!

Monday, July 26, 2010

My second birthday

Today is July 26th, so I am 3 days late in posting this. I had wanted to post it on July 23rd, but I wasn't able until now. July 23 1990 was a very special day in my life. THE MOST special day of my life, in fact. It was the day of my second birthday--the day I invited Jesus Christ to be my personal Savior!

I told you before that there are a few things I am passionate about. Caring for and finding homes for orphans is one. Telling people about Jesus and what He's done for me is another. In fact, wishing that everyone would meet Him is the biggest passion I have. Probably terribly un-PC I know. But frankly, there are just some instances when I couldn't care less about being politically correct.

I'd like to tell you my story, and if you already know Jesus, I hope my story will inspire you to tell yours to someone too.

I grew up knowing about Jesus. I went to a church where they taught about Him, we sang songs about Him, I learned Bible verses, I felt happy during the praise songs, and I often really really felt like I was a Christian. Some people don't know much about Jesus at all. And I believe that lots of people go to churches just like I did, feel spiritual sometimes like I did, and assume they are Christians like I did. The problem was I wasn't really a Christian even though I believed that Jesus existed and died for people's sins. I'll explain...

I was a good girl growing up. I never got in with the wrong crowd, I never did really bad things in school, I tried hard to please my parents and teachers, I was kind to other kids. Because I was good, and like I said, I believed in Jesus, I just naturally assumed I was saved. I figured I must have been saved at some point.

Then when I was about 14 we started attending a new church. This one was really different in some ways. The people there kept asking me if I was saved. Well, I remember when they would ask me that, I would say yes. But when I would say that I felt weird. Like something just didn't feel right. I know now it was the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, and letting me know something really wasn't right. I starting feeling more and more uneasy, and I started really analyzing my spiritual life. Here is the thing. The Bible spells out clear as day how to have a personal relationship with Jesus and be sure you will live eternally with Him. But for some reason, I have found that a lot of churches don't tell the whole story for some reason, or don't tell it very clearly. (And by the way, this has nothing to do with denominations!) So here is what I learned....

Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." And Romans 3:10 says "There is none righteous, no not one." This means that everyone sins. No matter how good I was, I still fell short of God's standard of holiness. Even really really wonderful people are all sinners and can't be good enough to deserve the glory of God! ( I read a quote that said, trying to get to heaven by our good works is like trying to sail the Atlantic on a paper boat. The Bible says we can't do it.)

Also, God really hates sin, and He has to judge sin because He is holy. All sin. Even small ones. Romans 6:23 says that "the wages of sin is death." I've learned that death really means separation, and the Bible talks of different kinds of death. The kind it's talking about here is spiritual death, which is eternal separation from God in hell. (Revelation 21:8-[They] shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.)

But God made us, He understands we are human, and He LOVES us so much. He DOES NOT want us to go to hell. (side note-- I hear so many people say, Why would a loving God send someone to hell? He doesn't want to! He has done everything He can to make sure we don't have to go there.) So, knowing that we are human and born with a sinful nature, He had to do something about our sin, so that we could be "made righteous" so to speak, so that we could live eternally with Him, and not separated from Him.

John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The second half of Romans 6:23 says "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." So, God is not a meany! He gave His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sins. Jesus came and lived a sinless life on earth, and then allowed them to crucify Him on a cross in order to take our place, so that we wouldn't have to die that second death. And He came back to life three days later, showing that He has power over death.

A lot of people stop there, and think believing in Jesus makes them a Christian. But that's where I learned I had been wrong. The Bible says that even the demons believe, and tremble. Just knowing about and believing in Jesus doesn't make you a Christian. Romans 6:23 says that eternal life is a gift. And like any gift, you can't just know it's there in order for it to really be yours. You have to RECEIVE it. There has to be a time when you personally accept Him as your Savior. In John 3:3 Jesus said "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." So, just like there is a time when we are born, there must be a time when we are born again into God's family... when we acknowledge our sins and repent of them, and accept the gift of God's salvation through Jesus' death on the cross. Romans 10:13 says, "For Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." That means there has to be a time that we pray and accept Christ as our Savior from our sins and the consequences of them.

So, I didn't have any peace at all. I was realizing that I really was not a Christian! Matthew 7:21-23 is a scary passage. It says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity (sin.)" So, lots of people think they are Christians, but Jesus says He does not know them. I think they are confused because they assume simply believing in God and living a good life makes you a Christian. But the Bible really doesn't teach that! You have to personally repent of your sins, and believe that Jesus paid the price for them by dying on the cross and raising from the dead, and you have to pray and accept the gift of salvation and eternal life He is holding out to you. That summer that I started going to that church, I went to teen camp, and I felt the Holy Spirit so strongly compelling me to accept Jesus as my Savior. I can't describe the feeling, except to know for sure that I had to do it.

Well, that was the beginning of my abundant life. I can tell you that life has not been without problems since then. Not every day is rosy and simple. The Bible never once promises that our lives will be pain free. But God does promise that if our trust is in Him, we have peace. We have peace WITH Him, and THROUGH Him. Peace with God. We are righteous in His eyes. Forgiven! And we can have supernatural peace in our hearts in any circumstance. It does not get better than that.

I can promise you that accepting Jesus as my Savior was by far the best thing I've ever done, and not just because I have the promise of eternal life in heaven with Him someday. I live with peace and joy in my heart that is not man made. He helps me to want to live right and make the right decisions. He has made me more like Him as the years have gone by. I face the future with gladness, knowing that He is in control. When I read His Word, I know I do not have to worry about a thing! He is simply everything to me!

I am so thankful to my Jesus for giving me this abundant life. He will do it for you, too. I hope you will accept His gift of salvation to you today!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thoughts about parents...

My parents live in Arizona, and my dad was able to visit us for a few days this week. We spent our time eating ice cream, watching the kids play at the park, going to the zoo and the movies, watching the kids splash around in the pool, playing the Wii, and talking.

My mom has been sending the kids packages lately like she often does. She sends fun books, cute little gifts she knows the kids will like, and funny cards and poems she makes and writes herself. She is always making us laugh.

I tell you, I love my parents.

I've been thinking about my parents and how parent/child relationships change as we grow older. I had a happy childhood, although my parents' relationship wasn't the greatest as I was growing up. I knew my parents loved me, and I loved them. But don't you think when you are a kid, you look at life through such self-centered lenses? I know I did.

Then as I hit the adolescent years, I think I still didn't really appreciate them. My mom and I had a great relationship especially, but still I know my life was so centered around myself, my hobbies and goals, I just didn't see them for who they really were. Just who they were as they related to me, really.

Then I started having kids, and finally I was able to start to get it. I was able to appreciate what my parents did for me. The incredible love and self-sacrifice parents have for their kids. Suddenly I looked at my parents with new eyes. I began to appreciate them. Truly heart-felt appreciation for everything--the late nights, the boo boo kisses, the worry over sicknesses, the last minute homework help, the driving us places and allowing us to learn and discover who we were. I started to really and truly love my parents.

And now I've lived far away from them for a long time, and I love them in a new way. I really miss them. My parents are getting older, and I cherish them. I love the little things about them. I love their quirks and their habits. I love the great things about them and even the things that aren't as great. I love every minute I spend with them on the phone. I love every second that I can spend with them. I have learned to love my parents not for what they can do for me, or even what they did for me throughout my life, but unconditionally, for who they are.

Probably the sweetest gift God has given us is the gift of family. Our first family--the one we share with our parents and siblings, and then our second--the one we share with our spouse and our children. Both are like pure gold to me. I know that not everyone was blessed with a wonderful family, and truth be told, mine was not perfect. But I did not need perfect parents.

I am so thankful for the ones I have.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

MRI results!

Today we were able to view both of Sarah's MRI scans--the one taken on June 2, the day after diagnosis, and the one taken on July 15. After only two rounds of chemotherapy, the tumor in her right eye which was so large it filled up her entire eye socket and was beginning to stretch back into her optic nerve and had looked like this-- Remember, her normal eye on that side is very small...

That tumor has shrunk down to only about 1 cm in diameter and now looks like this from the outside--

The oncologist on call today was telling us that oncologists typically do not get overly optimistic about MRI results, I guess because they don't want to get everyone's hopes up. But he said that our doctor, Dr. Smith, was so excited when she saw the scan results. Unusually excited! And we heard that when the scans were complete, the radiologist put a note on the second one with a label that said "Second MRI--supposedly without surgery." As if he couldn't even believe it! We are so thankful to God for getting us this far with such wonderful results. Everything has gone so well, including Sarah's body's reaction to some pretty strong chemotherapy.
The tumor board and all drs. involved are going to review her case soon, and decide from there the next course of action. She has one more scheduled round of chemo, and she also needs to have her small, blind eye (that had the huge tumor) removed, and the two small tumors in her good eye removed if the chemo does not take care of them. (So far the chemo hasn't shrunk them much. We were told it is because it is more difficult for the chemo to shrink this type of tumor.) So, they will be deciding what will be the best timeline to get all of these steps done.
Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support. God is so  good, and we give Him all the glory!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cancer Shmancer!

This is just Sarah...lovin' life like she always does. I know we need to clean off our trampoline! She didn't seem to mind the little sticks a bit though.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Elephant in the Living Room?

When we first found out about Sarah's cancer diagnosis, the outpouring of support was incredible and so comforting. Even in the hospital the very next day we had compassionate doctors and nurses at our side answering any question, and a sweet social worker who is really sincere in her concern for our family and in wanting to help in any way she can. There is also a support group based in the hospital called P.O.R.T.--I can't remember what it stands for--that was founded by parents who had children with cancer, who knew what it is like, and wanted to help other parents going through this. They provided a bag of necessities and goodies, and they provide a snack room full of things to munch on, all free of charge for families. They also provided a book about childhood cancer, and the nurses bookmarked the section about Sarah's type of cancer.

Well, those first few days I read and read and read that book. In a way it's a good thing to read because obviously it is very informative. But in another way, I might not encourage people to read it because it is full of people's experiences, and many of them can put worries or fears in your head that you probably won't even have to experience yourself.
One of the chapters is about what it was like for these families to go through this journey having a child with cancer. I remember one of them said that for the whole time they were going through it, their life was pretty much defined by the cancer. They said that even when they weren't experiencing anything cancer related, it was still like an elephant in the living room. And now, years later, it is much better, and cancer is more like only a zebra in the kitchen.

I sat there and thought about that for a minute. I wondered if that was truly how it would be. This cancer diagnosis was going to consume us? It was always going to be the elephant in the room, or at best the zebra in the kitchen? How sad! Well, I had no idea how it would look for us, but I sincerely hoped that that would not be the case.

I am happy to say after 2 rounds of chemo and getting ready Friday for her 3rd, that cancer is not consuming us. It does not consume our thoughts during the day or haunt us at night. Sarah is not bothered by it most of the time, and frankly, I sometimes forget she even has it! I am so very thankful that simply our wonderful God consumes us and our thoughts. Of course when we are in the hospital, or taking her temperature, giving her shots, or wearing masks while we change her dressings, we remember our sweet girl has cancer. But when we are between hospital visits, we are just enjoying our summer and enjoying each other just like every other year. Aside from our two year old girl being nearly bald, life is as normal as can be, and there is no elephant whatsoever in our living room. : )

Yesterday, we had a great time at the camp my brother-in-law runs. I love, love, love summer!! Especially because it stays light until about 10 at night, just the way it should. More hours in the day for more time for fun!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fun Day!

Our day started with an exciting trip to the clinic. So much fun to waste, I mean spend, over three hours just to get a blood draw! Yippee! At least she did not need a platelets transfusion, which is what we thought she would need. And she actually loves going, and it really is always fun to spend time with Sarah. Praise the Lord her blood count levels jumped up more quickly
this time than last time.

Then we came home, and I was so happy because Grandma and Grandpa brought all the boys home. I simply don't like being separated from my kids for any length of time. I am especially realizing that fact this summer as I have been forced to be away from them much more than usual. So, I sincerely am hoping that all 5 of them are called to serve the Lord when they grow up right smack dab in the middle of the block where I live. :)

All the boys went swimming when they came home. Ben was the last one left in the pool.

My water baby.

Sarah plainly showing that you don't have to have a full head of hair to be beautiful.

Jacob cool and collected after his fun weeks at camp

So happy my Josh is home.

We enjoyed our visit with my hubby's dear parents, (Is anyone else blessed with fabulous in-laws?) and then this evening we went to softball followed by a swim in the pool.....ME INCLUDED-- which is big news because I only get in there like maybe once a year when the water temp. is about 90. Today it was only 85, and if I would have known that before I promised I would get in, I'm sure it never would have happened.

Enjoy some pictures today! I took my camera with me to softball, but realized I forgot to put the card in there. I'll have to get those next time.

Enjoy your weekend!! I know I will!!! : )

Sarah amazed that I was getting in the water

Here I go!

Mark this date on your calendar, boys.

Cassandra had to join in the fun. She jumped right in with all her clothes on!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Short update about Sarah

Just a short post to catch you up...

This past Saturday night we noticed that Sarah had a small temperature. By 6 in the morning it was reading around 101, so we called the hospital and we got to go the ER. Oh yes, loads of fun...

We ended up admitted to the hospital, even though her temp never did really go above 100 again, but she had what appeared to be the beginning stage of pneumonia and a small eye infection.

Sarah and I stayed in the hospital through the rest of the holiday weekend. I was pretty bummed about missing the 4th of July, but the boys were up at my brother in law's camp with Grandma and Grandpa anyway, and at least we got to watch the city fireworks from the hospital window. Really it was an awesome view! Too bad Sarah was too tired and bored after the first few. Still she would say, "Sun!" (she thought they looked like the sun) And "Sparkly!" along with me. She does love sparkly things. : )

I am really growing to love the nurses on our hospital floor, a few in particular. It eases the disappointment of having to go to the hospital some when there are people there you look forward to seeing. Really wonderful people, and many who love the Lord. And Sarah? She loves it there! (Well, as much as she can, considering she has to be cooped up in one room for days.) She especially loves getting her vitals taken. Seriously! When I told her Sunday morning that we were going to the hospital and she could get a froggy hug when she got there, (that's what we call getting her blood pressure taken because there is a little frog on the cuff) she got so excited and yelled, "Froggy hug!!" : ) She loves it all--the froggy hug, the little light they wrap around her finger, the nurse listening to her heart, belly and back, and getting her temperature taken (Sounds kind of like "chur chur chur" when she says it.) She's come a long way from at first when she would cry through it all every time. And when they draw her blood through her tubes ( she doesn't have to get pokes because she has that broviac permanently in her chest) she watches it and says "blood!" She won't be one who faints at the sight, for sure now!

So, we were there until yesterday, and it was so good to be home. No sign of any pneumonia and that eye infection disappeared. Praise the Lord! Tomorrow we go to the clinic to check her blood cell counts and probably get a platelets transfusion, and then the next day we go back to clinic again for a squirt of vincristine, a chemo drug. She is very excited to go and get her froggy hugs. And then....Done until next Friday when she gets her next round of chemo. We are making it through, folks! Thank you so much for praying!!

While I have transfusions on my mind, I just want to say thank you to anyone who has ever given blood or platelets. I was always one who said that was not my ministry since I am a little squeamish about needles. But I am so thankful for those people who give! What a wonderful thing to do. Truly saving lives. Little children like my baby girl. Thank you, thank you!!

I hope you are having a great week. I tell you, I cherish normal days at home. I hope you do too! Love to you all!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Yesterday at the Hospital

Yesterday was our clinic appointment. That's the day when we go in to have Sarah's blood drawn to check her blood cell count levels and get a push of Vincristine, a chemo drug, into her broviac port. I wasn't looking forward to it because I knew her counts were going to be really low, and we don't want to take her anywhere at all on those days, especially a place where there are kids and toys. Of course, in a place where all the kids are in the process of undergoing cancer treatment, there shouldn't be many germs, but still, we brought our own toys...a few books, a hairbrush, a string and beads, and a toy cell phone. I thought we would only be there for a couple hours tops. I also carry around in my head a pretty endless supply of songs to sing together, and that eats up time.

So there we were in the waiting room, chatting with a mom of a little baby going through chemo, singing, stringing beads, and reading the 3 books I brought. Finally I caved and got one of the waiting room books, sterilized it, and read that one together too. We found out that Sarah's counts were so low, she would need a blood transfusion. Oh, fun! Actually, I knew that would be a possibility, but I hadn't planned for it when packing for the day, because of course I was running late. The nurse said we would start the transfusion there in the clinic, then when the clinic closed for the day we would move over to a hospital room. The whole thing would take--4 hours. She said they would get the blood ready and start it soon. It was about 3 o-clock by this time, and we had been there since 1. I thought "soon" meant about 15 minutes. Try an hour and a half.

So, while I was waiting for that 15 minutes to be up so we could start the transfusion, we.....read our 4 books, played with beads, played with the cell phone, brushed hair, and sang songs. And Sarah likes the SAME SONGS over and over. I am sure we sang Mahna Mahna from the Muppets 15 times in that hour and a half, her favorite song, Tractor Tractor at least 20, and Shake Hands with a Poor Boy about 10. (It starts off, "I never had much in this world below..." and hearing Sarah sing that is so funny!) That poor mom with the little baby was probably praying silently that they would hurry up and get that blood ready already! Oh yeah, we found something else fun to do--hitting the shiny stars they had hanging around. Sarah thought that was really hilarious. : )

FINALLY, at 4:30 they took us over to the place where they would hook her up. Mercifully they let her play with the little machine that takes your temperature, because I was very very done with singing by this time.

At 6 we were escorted over to the familiar hospital floor that feels sort of like home now ("back to our room" Sarah calls it, although we didn't get the same room we had before,) to finish the transfusion. Somehow I had it in my mind we would be done at 7:30. But I soon found out that we would be there til past 8:30. This time it was a room with a regular bed, but I felt sure that since my girl had not had a nap all day, she would conk out as soon as her head hit the pillow. Uh, Nope. : ) Nothin' doin.

So, we sat on the bed and ate pizza and mashed potatoes, and then we read some more, sang more songs, and then I was done. I laid down on the bed and watched Funniest Home Videos while Sarah amused herself with another thermometer machine until we were finally able to go home.

The most interesting thing about that story is that, even though the day was long and tiring, I really really enjoyed it. I always try to find something to be thankful for in every situation, and in this one it wasn't hard to find. A whole day with my precious girl. What could be better than that? Singing song after song is fun when your audience's face lights up like the sun every time. Her smile and laugh and little voice singing with me are even better than sitting at the beach with a good book, or a day at the mall. I treasure every day I have with my sweet family. I hope you are treasuring yours today!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Life in the Battle

Do you ever have those days when the devil sneaks up on you and says...

So, you think everything is hunkey dorey? Well...take this!


And don't forget about...THIS!

And here's a bill! Heh-heh-heh

Surprise! Here's another one! How's your God gonna take care of that??

And by the way...You stink at THAT!

And just look at your house...

And have you looked in the mirror lately? You need a new wrinkle cream!

Phhhhtttt!!! (I have no idea how to type a raspberry...) ; )

Yeaaaaah...that was how my day went.

But it's nice that when you know God, those attacks from the devil don't have to last long. We have so much ammo to fight back with. First of all, my little Ben coming up to me with hugs and sweet "I love you's" goes a long way in the blessing department. And Sarah running up to me calling, "Cuddle, Mommy!" is pretty good for the soul.

But most of all, my sweet heavenly Father never lets me stay down for long. Here is some of what I read in my devotional book this morning...

It's all right to be human.
Simply return your attention to Me.
Rejoice in My love for you which has no limits or conditions.
Whisper My Name in loving contentment, assured that I will never leave you nor forsake you.
My strength and power show themselves most effective in your weakness.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9--
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.
Take that, Satan.