Tag Archives: Cancer

What a difference a year makes!

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago…..

I didn’t know if:
Barb would survive cancer
She would remain in her wheelchair
Our dream of working overseas would become reality
We could continue to pay for college
Military engagements would continue to keep parents worried

I didn’t know:
Glenn Alexander
bensonwedd
Malawi
Peter
Priscilla
Kyle
Jeremy

This year I know:
Barb is cancer free and RUNNING RACES: take that wheelchair!
The warm heart of Africa, Malawi
The joy of returned income to pay for school
A daughter NOT deployed AND transferred to a Post much closer to home
Many, many new people who are positively effecting my life daily

What will I know next year that I do not know today? When I reflect next year, whose lives will I have effected and will they be better because of the interaction? What and where will I be doing? Coke is running an ad campaign in Africa that really caught my attention. Their tag line is, “while the rest of the world is worrying about the future a billion Africans are enjoying a Coke”. I would like that to be my theme this coming year. I want to live in the moment, enjoying the people around me, valuing them for who and what they are.

What doors will be opened to us and what doors will be closed, and will we be smart enough to know which is which? One of my favorite cartoons is the picture of the kid trying to get into the gifted school, pushing on the door that is clearly marked pull. I really hope I do not spend too much time next year pushing instead of pulling!

Blessings on each and everyone of you!

Peace, Love, Faith and Hope!

Jon

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Wiggin’ Out!

It’s not as bad as it sounds, wiggin’ out.

Last Friday was a day of gratitude for me. It was the day of our “Wigging Out Party”. My wife’s idea to celebrate the loss of her hair and have fun as a Cancer Warrior, morphed into a bigger event. We had planned on having several friends over to the house to witness, give support and have a time of laughter to the shaving of Barb’s head and mine. She had requested that everyone come with something on their head they did not grow there themselves, whether a wig, hat or scarf.

Several of her co-workers took the idea and transformed it into a fundraiser for American Diabetes Association, Susan B Komen Foundation and Hope Lodge. These wonderful people arranged for a venue, food and rallied friends, co-workers and family to be there.

I was also thrilled to be able to coordinate a surprise for Barb and flew in our girls who are living out-of-town. After a hectic schedule shuffle, they arrived at the airport and were snuck into the party, perfect timing! We had all four girls home to support and celebrate. I also wanted them to be able to reconcile a disease discussed on the phone, to the reality of seeing hair loss, nausea, headaches, and fatigue that go hand in hand with treatment. Also, to reassure them of the tremendous overwhelming sense of well being we have and to promise face-to-face to be frank with them about how everything is progressing.

We had a blast! It was a touchstone moment for me and this week I have derived much personal satisfaction from memories and the knowledge that we helped do some good for others as well.

So, once again thanks to all of you who were there both physically and in spirit!

Jon

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Buzz Kill

Buzz Kill.

Those words evoke many mental word pictures. Perhaps it is a peek into my mental condition this morning but these were the words that popped into my mind as I read this mornings devotional; The Lord’s Prayer, specifically the highlighted line. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”

We have been on a journey [since] Ash Wednesday, both very personal and very public. We share in a denominational study “Ashes to Fire” as well as the personal journey of newly minted cancer patients. It has been joyful and uplifting how the two journeys have paralleled each other, a buzz.

We have all felt a tremendous sense of calm, peace and joy in the journey. And when we would begin to feel worry or fear beginning to creep in around the edges something would remind us to Whom we belonged, but this morning reading the Lord’s prayer of all things, I was reminded that we live in a sinful world with other sinful people.

This profound insight I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact of getting up at 03:00 to slog through TSA and board a plane in the fog and chill of the early morning. Or watching other folks ask the inane questions that accompany frequent traveling. It had nothing to do with the delightful conversation on the way down the hallway with the First Officer. These things of my existence are all part and parcel, no I think it had more to do with the conversations I know will take place. The energy that will be needed to endure.

What a buzz kill.

But it was necessary for me today. Life seems easy when living on the high, but most of life is lived in the trenches, doing what is needed day in and day out. And for me that takes resolve and preparation. It is a discipline. Sad, it has taken me more than forty years to learn that little tidbit. But the highs of life also make us look differently at the plateaus and the valleys. The discipline of daily living our vows, our morals, our diets, our meditations, our relationships, our jobs, is where we can experience the life sustaining joys of others.

It is the first gift of forgiveness, in the high of the freedom of forgiveness, that sets up a pattern of thinking and a lifestyle of forgiveness towards others when the “buzz” is not apparent.

I am reminded this morning that my forgiveness involved a cross and a tomb and my forgiveness of others may not always be a happy affair, BUT the results of that forgiveness are incomparable!

Peace, Love, Hope and Faith

Jon

Lucky?

Atlanta Hartsfield Airport is very busy and according to my Foursquare feed I have been here 523 times in the last three weeks. (not really just feels that way) I tend to split my time between DTW, MSP and ATL as my connection airports, avoiding CVG and MEM if at all possible, but I digress.

Becasue it is so busy I was very surprised this evening when sitting on the tarmac after just having pushed back from the gate, a tug and attached luggage cart came wheeling right up along side the aircraft.

We heard thudding as the cargo door was opened. I watched the driver load an additional bag into the hold and then the the cart whisked off into the evening.

I commented to my seat mate that was a sight I had never witnessed before, that someones luggage almost missed the flight and then he said something that resonated with me; “they don’t know how lucky they are.”

I think in general that is how most of us live our lives. We walk around oblivious to goodness that surrounds us. This is not a new thought or a staggering one. How many times have you heard the old cliche’ “slow down and smell the roses”? Or, take time? The truth is we have a tendency to run through life. Moving at an ever swifter pace.

A co-worker and I were bemoaning the fact last week of the mountains of email we get on a daily basis and the subtle and sometime not so subtle expectation of certain senders of an immediate response. Life at an unrelenting pace.

The truth is we are very lucky, everyone of us. I do use the word lucky a bit tongue in cheek here, a better word would be blessed. Yes, that is a good word.

Consider our current circumstances and you may tell me that I am crazy for thinking we are blessed, but let me elaborate.

My dear wife has breast cancer and is also a type I diabetic. We received the pathology reports from her biopsy last week and are just in the beginning stages of fighting the big C.

My mother- in- law, received the results of her biopsy today and she also has breast cancer.

We have a twofer. And thanks we don’t want to go for three.

The outlook for our lives over the next year includes chemotherapy, surgery, radiation treatments, more surgery, lots of visits and discussions with nuemerous medical professionals as well as the ever and ongoing discussions with Blue Cross and now Medicare. All the while keeping up with our ever increasing flow of email, Facebook, twitter, etc.

But consider how lucky we are:

We have reconnected and have heard from thousands of friends all over the world.
We have good jobs with caring people.
We have fabulous customers, client and vendors who check on our well being.
We have a God who has made His presence known to us individually, daily.
We have family who cares for us and most of the time likes us!
We have a great team of clinicians who are accessible to us.
We have opportunities to share our story and make a difference in others.

AND

We have each other.
We have each other.
We have each other.

We are indeed blessed and lucky.

In no way do I want my loved ones to suffer, but if we do, then we will look for the good and make sure that others know too.

How lucky are you today?

Peace, Love, Faith and Hope

Jon

The sleeping bear

Worry is an insidious beast. It lies dormant like a great hibernating bear, only to awaken hungry and grumpy. In my obedience and desire to give up worry for Lent, I have learned several things;

1) worry is about control
2) most things I worry about are really out of my control
3) worry likes to be fed
4) a mind dwelling on goodness, starves worry.

On Ash Wednesday I became convinced that worry was to be my Lenten sacrifice, but I didn’t know we would have a cancer diagnosis.
I didn’t know a tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident would affect the global economy.
I didn’t know that a child would be sick thousands of miles away.
I didn’t know that we would be firing weapons in anger in another country.
I didn’t know.

All these things and the worry they could have created are not in my sphere of influence. So why before this season did I spend energy feeding the bear? Most of the time I brought a fully loaded picnic basket!

A recent post on Facebook engaged my brain enough to reach out to several of my more scholarly friends. At the root of the discussions we talked about our minds focus, both conscious and unconscious. Today’s reading from Psalms 71, sums it up nicely; “In You, O Lord, I take refuge.”

If we are taking refuge in God and dwelling on good things there is not room in our minds for evil, or subtle evil, like worry.

Let me give you an example.

I left Tuesday for Philadelphia. We were to get Barb’s pathology report back late this week. I was due back Thursday and expected to see doctor sometime on Friday. That was my plan. Path labs are never on time. So much for my plan. The lab set a record pace and Barb got the call Wednesday! There went my plan.

I felt horrible. I felt guilty for not being home with Barb. I was mad that the lab did their job well. I let my mind wander to places of despair. I was sick of the weather. (snowing!) I was tired of the hotel room. The worry bear was waking up.

And then my friend called and another sent a text and then another call. I was reminded to dwell on the things of God. As I contemplated, slowly the bear went back to sleep.

Evil departs in the presence of righteousness. It cannot abide goodness. Barb wrote about speaking Life. My dear friends spoke life to me.

I’m home now and am happy to tell you the bear is still sleeping. I trust this discipline will soon lead to not just a sleeping bear, but a nice bear rug I can walk all over.

Peace, Love, Hope and Faith

Jon

Biopsy

Had the biopsy this morning. Things went smoothly. It took longer than expected. They took two samples from each tumor and will have each analyzed. We should have official results later this week.

We look for signs of hope that have been placed along our trail. At the desk where we were registering for the procedure, there was a small desk calendar with a picture of a ship. I was intrigued so I picked it up and snapped a picture. I have attached it. The name of the ship is Methane Nile Eagle. It was docked at Idku, Egypt.

Now I don’t mean to spiritualize everthing I see, and if asked would tell you I lean more towards the Diest side of the religious continuum, but come on! How many doctors offices have a picture of a tanker in Egypt, in Kansas City, who happen to be treating a couple during the month that the calendar has the picture (yeah the only month with an Egyptian picture as well) who are following a path they believe will lead them to Egypt? And who seem to have this insurmountable Cancer thing to deal with? And who read this morning Psalm 56:2b-4a “O Most High, when I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I am not afraid. And Jeremiah 1:4 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet … for you shall go to all whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.”

Thanks for the bread crumb….or really a whole freaking loaf!

I needed a physical, tangible reminder to leave worry where it was supposed to be today.

I am taking Barb home now. Step one taken on a road which will be full of surprises and daily victories.

Peace, Love, Hope and Faith

Jon

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Visible Faith

I have been pondering what faith looks like today. How does having faith in something translate into my daily living? I know all the trite analogies, “I have faith this seat will hold me so I sit”. You’ve heard them before, as a matter of fact we practice them without thinking and that’s what hit me.

True faith translates into acts of unquestioning response.

For instance, the phone rings; I don’t wonder if someone is on the other end of the connection. I don’t take time to contemplate it. I answer the phone, in faith,  sure someone will respond when I say “hello”.

This week has been chaotic for us emotionally and I am sure there are more to come, but has my living reflected the faith I profess?

Upon reflection, probably not. Want an example? We need to renew Barb’s passport. Haven’t done it. Why not? Many reasons that are not related to this cancer battle, but that is beside the point. We can’t ever go to Egypt if we don’t have a passport. I will have faith and will live my life accordingly. SO, no more excuses! We ARE sending the renewal in this weekend.

WE WILL LIVE BY FAITH AND THERE WILL BE TANGIBLE EVIDENCE TO OTHERS OF THAT FAITH.

Peace, Love, Hope and yes FAITH.

Jon

Outwardly Focused

I am amazed how interconnected we are today. We have literally been contacted by friends and family all over the globe. Now I should not be surprised, Barb and I ave not exactly been homebodies. Our lives have taken us from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and everywhere in between.

I also have commented in the past that Barb seems to be a collector of people; everywhere she goes, she makes new friends and acquaintances. Yes, she is that person on the airplane who will talk to you and have you laughing before you know it! I have always been a bit jealous of her ability. Most of the time I don’t know a stranger, but Barb has this innate ability to make others feel at ease around her immediately.

I’m not sure then, why I am surprised by the outpouring of love and compassion we have felt from you and why it is amazing to me the new connections made.

Yesterday, we went to lunch (and dinner we liked it so much!) at a new restaurant in the strip center behind Barb’s bank. It was a bit later in the lunch hour and the restaurant is new so we were the only ones in the place, so the owner came by and helped us. I watched in amazement as my dear wife, engaged this lady in conversation. An example of making lemonade, she asked about the carb count of an item on the menu. Then began to draw information out of the owner. What makes me jealous is the fact that she does this without thinking. It just happens. Before we were done, we found out the owner’s mother has had pancreatic cancer and survived, that the owner is now a vegan because of what it did for her mother. That she was raised on a cattle ranch. They engaged in resources of wholistic and team approaches for her mothers treatments. She has a young son, her husband Is the executive chef. She is a practicing Buddhist, who also does yoga as a means to better health. She has a brother who lives in Colorado, close to her mother.

We gained valuable information about Internet resources regarding cancer management. We shared just a tiny bit about the fact that our spiritual life will play a significant role in recovery. But Barb put aside her own issues for the time we interacted and drew this lady into our circle. She provided encouragement to her and as I watched, encouragement to ourselves as well.

I realized later that we were both starting to focus on ourselves and it seems that it was leading to a point of despair. But we were placed in a situation where we were able to interact with others and Barb’s God-given gifts took over, and delivered us to a better place. Lemonade was made out of the lemons we were growing.

It reminds me that through this process and throughout our regular mundane lives that living a lifestyle of outward focused servanthood to others is in our personal best interest. When I am aware of others and not caught up in my own little world, then things like, allowing the driver in front of me to merge happens without inappropriate sign language being used. It helps me to be nice. Nice, lowers my stress level; nice helps me be more patient; nice helps me feel less, “clentchy”.

Today I again read from Hebrews and Psalms. In Hebrews it talked of rest, I can’t when I’m tense and inwardly focused. In Psalms the reading was about a river that flowed whose streams make glad the city of God. It’s quite a word picture; swimming is a river of gladness. I certainly cannot do this if I am focused on me. I have problems. I have fears. But I have friends, co-workers, kids, and most importantly, a wife and mother-in-law who need me to be focused on them.

So, I will jump in this river, and look outward and resist the temptation to be selfish.

Peace, Love and Hope

Jon

Lent and the road to….

Well, the sun is shining!

That’s my attempt to make lemonade today.

Just came from the doctor who just told us that it is almost positively breast cancer. We were prepared sort of, but we were not prepared to hear that there was lymph node involvement already at least I wasn’t.

But we are already squeezing the lemons! Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not leaping for joy at the thought of the road ahead, but I do know without a shadow of doubt who is walking with us.

I am frustrated that my wonderful wife and friend has one more medical thing to deal with! In fact it makes me a bit angry, but we are more determined than ever to make this a positive experience. She has done that with her diabetes, making friends we would have never come into contact with without a dead pancreas!

I’m sure there is someone who we will come into contact with through this major inconvenience that has similar stories and needs the encouragement Barb is so great at giving.

Next week is a big one.

Biopsy on Monday, Barb’s Mom to her surgeon on Tuesday, yeah that’s right, they get to walk this path together. I’m all for family togetherness but please, one at a time!

Someone told me that being afraid and worry were not the same and to a point I agree, but if fear is allowed to take root in your mind, I think, at least for me, worry that is perserveristic (is that a proper form of the word? Should be!) entangles itself in my life.

Interesting that today’s reading from Hebrews discussed not allowing your heart to be hardened. I admit for a moment this afternoon, I started to spiral down a path of dread and despair. But I will not let entropy control me. I will not allow the circumstances of life dictate my outlook. How? By listening! Hebrews 3:7-8a I will not harden my heart because He is speaking!

Love and Peace.

Jon

Lent and the road to…#2

From an email sent on March 12, 2011

Good Afternoon!

What a journey! Giving up worry has become a daily, hourly and sometime minute by minute process for me. Today our study together was about the temptation of Christ. Growing up in the church I have heard this many times before, but am amazed at the “newness” of Scripture! The newness for me today is twofold; First straight from the study there are no shortcuts. Everyone, including Christ must have a touchstone, crisis moment in faith. This moment sets the stage for all our future interactions and developments. Secondly, Pastor Rick pointed out that Christ was not spiritually weak after his 40 day experience. He was physically weak, but spiritually he had been working out and was at the top of his game!

During my life I have had many, touchstone moments where I could have chosen fear over faith. I now remember and reflect on and give thanks for the spiritual conditioning and training that those times have given me. They are touchstones and provide the framework for discipline needed so temptations can be overcome. 

One of my favorite stories is the story of Gideon. A good friend of mine once used the illustration of the Gideon Flag; Gideon tested God with the fleece. My friend says he thinks Gideon mounted that Fleece on a pole and waved it in front of his tents and armies as a reminder of God’s faithfulness and His calling of Gideon. So whenever doubt and worry reared their ugly heads he could look up at the Fleece and know God was in charge.

 

I have fleeces; and choose to remember what God has done and trust Him today, this moment. 

We have a need to raise those fleeces and ask for your special prayers as we learn to place ALL in God’s hands.

 

On Tuesday, I am taking both Barb and Judy (Barb’s Mom) to see a surgeon. Judy found several lumps on her left side and Barb has a mass growing, that was discovered by her annual mammogram. 

They both have had follow up mammograms and sonograms and our next step is the surgeon. We received confirmation of this news on Ash Wednesday. Mmm, the same day God asked me to give up worry. A fluke or coincidence of timing, no way! See that flag flying? Ours just happens to be the same colors as the Egyptian flag and it reminds us that we are not in charge BUT neither is the Devil!

 

We covet your prayers. Pray for us to have discernment and clarity of vision and continued peace. Pray for stamina to keep the standard raised high. Pray that my work schedule can be adjusted as easily as it was this week! Pray for healing. 

As always,

 

Peace and Love 

Jon