March 2009


Have you ever found yourself right in the middle of where God wants you to be without even knowing it. Yesterday, as Jeff and I looked around the waiting room we were getting ready to cross the room to sit down. It was going to be difficult to get where we wanted to sit and then I noticed some chairs that were closer, on the other side. I found myself in the middle of an unscheduled God Appointment. Sitting across from me were two women and we entered into some chit chat about the coffee shops downstairs. As we talked, the woman directly across from me shared that this was her first visit to PMH. She was visibly nervous and I asked her if she already had a diagnosis or if she was waiting for one that day. She had just been diagnosed with Lymphoma and was at PMH to meet with the doctor and find out more about the disease and the course of treatment/action for her. I was able to share my experiences at PMH (6+ years!) and then, I shared with her on a “heart” level. I said, “Regardless of what the doctor says in there today, regardless of whether the road ahead of you seems easy, difficult or just plain impossible, know that you will find the courage and strength from inside of you to face whatever needs to be faced.” I spoke for a few minutes of my story, and you could see the anxiety drain from her body as she relaxed to face what was ahead. As her name was called and she was heading off into the unknown, I reminded her that I meant every word I said. I didn’t see her at the end of her appointment (you’ll find out why if you keep reading) but I know that God saved me a seat in that waiting room yesterday.

Before I go on about my appointment, let me remind you that fighting cancer is not just a physical battle, and believe me, it’s physical. Cancer is also an emotional battle and a mental battle. I had to work really hard this past week to not worry about the results of the ultrasound that was done on Tuesday. I made deliberate choices not to think about what “might be” or “could be”. One of my favourite verses in the whole Bible is Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” For me, waiting patiently for the results, good or bad, without anxious thoughts, was a disciplined act of my mind. It was a choice. And it wasn’t always easy.

So imagine my joy when Dr. Crump told me the results of the ultrasound came back to say that nothing was wrong. My joy stemmed from knowing that I had not spent one minute of wasted time or energy on something that I couldn’t even do anything about. JOY!

Okay, that still leaves me with an infection that is causing fevers. Dr. Crump wants to rule out some pretty terrible infections so they took blood cultures to see if any infection will grow in my blood. He also wanted to do a Lumbar Puncture (or a spinal tap). I said, “Right now? Today?” His answer, “Why not?” He spoke to me a little about what the procedure would be like (think similar to having an epidural when you are ready to deliver a baby… the needle goes into the same spot and you are curled up the same too…) and arranged for one of the other doctors to do the procedure.

Now, when it comes to being a patient, I talk a pretty big game. Remember all that “strength and courage” I spoke of in the waiting room? I knew at that moment that those words were for me as well. I try my best not to get emotional but I must admit, I do get pretty nervous at the beginning of any procedure. Yesterday was the same. Without going into details, they were able to get the sample they needed and near the end, I did manage to find the strength and courage I needed to get through the procedure.

So, where does that leave me… We’re waiting on chemo until we can identify the infection and take care of that. Dr. Crump was pleased with my blood results which shows that the chemo is doing what it is supposed to be doing (and of course that you guys are praying and that God is healing my body!!!) My next appointment is on Monday next week unless of course I hear from them before then. I’m pretty sore today. I’ve got so much more to say, but even sitting here to write this was probably too much.

So with that, I’m off to rest.

With love,

H.

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I won’t be long tonight. Still not much to say…

I was awake for a good part of the early morning (1:00-4:30ish) and a lot of that time was spent in prayer and conversation with God. And so even though I didn’t sleep, I did feel that the time was well spent. I mean, what did you accomplish in that same time frame?…

Just before trying to fall back asleep again I decided to take my temperature. Now, I know that I am supposed to monitor my temperature pretty regularly, and I’m pretty good, but at 3:30 last night I decided to check just out of curiousity. Also, since I take my temperature so often I am fairly accurate at guessing what my temperature is and whether or not I’m having a fever. Imagine my surprise then when the temperature read 38.8 C (101.8 F). When I have a fever over 38.5 I am to go to the ER for blood cultures and to be examined to find out what is going on and figure out what type of infection my body is fighting.

Long Story Short:
I spent the afternoon in the ER at the Ajax/Pickering Hospital. Blood work was taken and I was sent home to wait for the results. So that’s what we’re doing. Waiting. Since coming home I’ve had one fever, it’s breaking now. I’m looking forward to a good sleep tonight and hopefully some answers in the next 24-48 hours.

Thank you for your continued prayers.

H.

Hey Folks,

There’s not really much to report tonight. I had my ultrasound appointment yesterday and we will wait to hear the results on Monday. Night sweats continue, so I’m back to waking up a number of times each night, changing p.j.’s and finding a full load of laundry waiting for me in the morning.

So, without much to say tonight (believe me, the irony isn’t lost on me…) I am going to share a quote that I jotted down a few years ago. It’s taken from a book Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On and is written by Stormie Omartian. I must admit I haven’t read the whole book, but I found this gem and wrote it out. Enjoy and be encouraged.

“Life is a walk. Each day we take steps. Our tomorrow is determined by the steps we take today… Learning to walk with our Heavenly Father is somewhat different. He wants us to reach up and take his hand, but he doesn’t want us to ever let go. In fact, his desire is that we become more and more dependent upon Him for every step. That’s because He wants to take us to places we’ve never been. To heights we can’t even imagine. In order to do that, we have to go through the low valleys, treacherous mountains, rough terrain, and narrow paths of life- places where we could easily get lost or off the track. And there is definately no way we can just head off on our own and arrive safely in the place He has planned for us. And quite the opposite of the way we teach our children, we will never know the joy of true freedom until we understand we cannot take a single step without His help.

But it’s up to us to take the first step. If we don’t, we will never learn to walk with Him. We can be so afraid of taking a wrong step that we fail to take any step at all. God didn’t part the Jordan River for the Israelites until they first put their feet in the water. (Joshua 3:15-16) That’s because God requires the first step to be ours. In order to take that first step, we must look into the face of God, reach up to take His hand, and say, “Lead me in the path you have for me, LORD. From this day on I want to walk with You. I will take this step of faith and trust You to meet me here. Align my heart with Yours”

God doesn’t often reveal the details of where  He’s taking you because He wants you to trust Him for every step. He wants you to pray and listen to Him directing your path for this day, this week, this season, this year, and this time.

When you hear God telling you to move in a certain direction, “do it”. Refusing to walk according to God’s leading will get  you nowhere. Oh, you will arrive some place alright, but if it is not where God wants to bless you, it will still be nowhere.

It doesn’t matter what your situation is at this moment. Wherever you are, God has a path for you that is filled with good things. Draw close to Him and you’ll find it. Say “Show me the way in which I should walk and the thing I should do.” (Jeremiah 42:3) He will do that and, if you carefully follow as He guides you, He will not let you get off the path. With each step He will reveal more of Himself. “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:12) So reach up right now and take God’s hand. He promises He won’t let you fall.”

H.

Since my parents moved to the farm, I’ve had the opportunity to create some great memories.

Campfires. S’mores. Sledding.

Holiday meals with family and friends.

And now, a WEDDING!

That’s right. On March 7th, in a small ceremony at the farm, my Daddy got married to Maggie. And we are thrilled.

Maggie, we welcome you to our family with open arms.

Love Heather

After heading down to PMH 3 times last week I am glad to announce that I have two weeks off… almost. I have an ultrasound appointment booked for next Tuesday at Toronto Western as a follow up to my CT scan last week and then my next appointment with Dr. Crump isn’t scheduled until March 30th. I couldn’t be happier.

Part of the reason for the time off is 1) March Break and my doctor is away (and since I think he is the greatest, I don’t even mind) and 2) to give me a little more time to heal from my chest infection. And, even though the x-ray showed improvement to the one from a few weeks ago, I will remain on medication until I see Dr. Crump.

Having two weeks off continues to give me time to rest and feel stronger and so far, it’s working. I’m feeling great (read: probably a 7 or 8/10) and as I’m feeling better, I have more energy to have fun with my family. Already this week Jeff and I took Nathan to the Toronto Zoo. We have a zoo membership and live just 10 minutes away and it was so nice to walk around, chase Nathan, see the animals and enjoy the sun. We’re also heading out to Bruce Mills to see how Maple Syrup is made, one of my favourite spring time activities.

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be resting. And I am. But it’s also good for me to be out and about in the fresh air when I’m feeling up to it. And besides, you probably couldn’t change my mind anyways!

So, I’m not sure that there will be much to write about over the next two weeks. We’re doing well here. Nathan continues to sleep through the night (YAHOO!) and Jeff and I are enjoying hanging out as a family and sharing more of the parenting/work load.

One more thing: Since I’m feeling so well right now and we know that there is some time before my next chemo treatment and all that goes with it, Jeff and I have decided to start toilet training Nathan. That’s right. We’re out of our minds…

H.

So, Jeff and I travelled downtown last night after dropping Nathan off at my sister’s house for the night. We got to PMH in plenty of time for my CT scan and I was ushered into the waiting room, changed into a gown and waited for my name to be called. And when the technician called out “Mrs. Smith” I was ready to go. She led me down the hallway and introduced herself and explained that she just wanted to check the spelling of my name before my MRI. I assured her that my name was spelled Smyth (I usually answer to both “Smith” and “Smyth” and correct along the way as necessary). And before I had a chance to question her about the scan, she led me back to the waiting room to double check the appointment. After some conversation back and forth, namely that I had been to the clinic before, that I was here for a CT scan and that indeed my name was spelled Smyth we realized the confusion. A few minutes later, “the real” Mrs. Smith was called and ushered in for her exam.

That’s the thing with having a common last name. There are two of us “Heather Smyth’s” here in Pickering, at my doctor and at my pharmacy so I’m always clear to clarify my address, middle name or other identifying information. And certainly, I would have corrected her about the type of scan I was scheduled to have. If I’ve learned anything about the health care system, it’s that it is filled with ordinary people, who make mistakes just like I do. I am thankful for the checks and balances in place to make sure the right person is called for the right test/appointment, but I’ve also learned that I need to speak up and advocate for myself regarding my health and the care that I receive.

So, after getting all that straightened out, I was called in for my CT scan, was hooked up to the IV and the scan was ready to go. I usually pray or think about Bible verses as the scan takes place (about 5 minutes in length) to keep my mind focused and to distract myself from ugly thoughts. One of my favourites is “Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, through prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”

As I was praying last night as the scan took place around me, I was thanking God for the technology that was available to take pictures of my insides, without having to actually take a look around inside. I was amazed at this.

And then it hit me. I was speaking to the God of the Universe. The One who “knit me together in my mother’s womb”, the One who knows all the answers regarding my body, including blood counts, the pain in my side, the numbers of hairs on my head. And here I was thanking Him for the technology (which is of course good and useful, and I am indeed thankful…). But my prayers switched to thanking God for who He is and all that He knows.

After the scan, Jeff and I went out for dinner to an Indian Restaurant near the hospital. Delicious. So good. Every bite of my Cashew Chicken was great. And we had good conversations too. And so, while we can’t call the whole night a date, it certainly ended off that way. And it was nice. A quick reprieve from the doctors, tests and “what’s next?” conversations. It was a lot of fun.

I’m still waiting for my appointment(s) for next week but I’ll let you all know when I hear the results from the scans.

Until next time,

H.

I should have mentioned that once I got to the hospital I was able to put the adventures of the morning behind me and I was able to laugh at the whole thing.

And, if you’re familiar with the Strengths Finder test and know me even a little bit or have been following this blog you won’t be surprised that one of my top 5 strengths is Positivity. You also won’t be surprised to hear that my very top strength is Communication. (You can wipe those smirks off you’re face now… I mean it.)

G’night.

H.

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