July 2011


Dear Family and Friends,

We just returned home from Princess Margaret and my third round of treatment.  It was pretty uneventful, the IV went in on the first try, there wasn’t any pain and the time went by quickly.  Nathan enjoyed his time at The Magic Castle and Jeff was able to get some work done.  I was able to fit in a regular treatment (scheduled once a month) before a quick visit with the doctor to monitor my progress.  To be honest, there’s not really much news to report.  Things are going well and I have follow up scans scheduled in August for after my last treatment to see how my body has reacted.  My cough has changed dramatically in the past few weeks since my treatments and I am not as quick to get out of breath as before.  These are good signs.

Last week while I was having my treatment I sat and listened to two messages that influenced our decision to go ahead with the bone marrow transplant two years ago.  (You can read about that decision process in the Archives section, July 2009). The first was titled Mighty To Save and the second was about Faith, both talked about the story of David and Goliath. I was encouraged again by these messages, especially the one  on faith.

Now, I’m guessing that most of you know the story of David and Goliath but that’s usually where we stop telling the story.  David defeats Goliath and that’s the end, right? Wrong!

Take a look at 2 Samuel 21:15-22

Wars Against the Philistines

Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.”

In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha.

 In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.

In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him.

These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.

***

Did you know that part of the story?  The Philistines came back. The Israelites had to fight again. And again. And…

This was of great encouragement to me as I sat receiving treatment for the lymphoma in my lungs.  I had thought that this cancer story was coming to a close, that I was close to the finish line, that the war had already been won. But just as in the story of David, Goliath, the Israelites and the Philistines, the last 12 years from my diagnosis until today have just been part of my story.  There have been many battles along the way and many victories won. I celebrate each one, because of God’s great faithfulness to me.

As I listened to the message on Faith the speaker began to describe some of Goliath’s armour, his shield.  He described it as being as large as a door, made of thick wood, so heavy that soldiers would have worn spikes on their shoes to stop the shield from falling right on their feet. And before the soldiers marched into battle, these shields were drenched in water in order to extinguish fiery arrows from the enemy.  Doesn’t that give you a new picture about the Shield of Faith  as part of the Armour of God that Paul describes in Ephesians 6:10-17?

I want to finish this post off with the chorus of a song that has been of great encouragement to me throughout the years.

He Will Carry Me by Mark Schultz

Chorus:

And even though I’m walkin’ through the Valley of the Shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone and I’ve been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need
He will carry me

***This is true for me in the middle of my circumstances, the valley, the mountain and the road between.  This is true in the middle of your circumstances, the valley, the mountain and the road between.  His love will comfort you. He is all the strength you will ever need.  He will carry you.

With love and joy,

Heather

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been one week since my first treatment of Rotuxamib.  Things went well last week for the IV and while it was a long day, everything went smoothly.  I came home tired and spent the rest of the week resting and trying to avoid the heat.  I am still trying to figure out whether my tiredness, fatigue and low appetite are because of the treatment or because of the extreme heat.  Probably a bit of both.

Last week, Jeff and I met again with Dr. Crump. We realized that after our initial visit with Dr. Kurvella and Dr. Crump which mostly was to establish an action plan and to put that plan into place, that we still had a lot of questions about what post transplant lymphoma is and how it effects me and my case personally.  Dr. Crump spent some time answering our questions and continued to reassure us that we are on the right track.

After some time of asking questions and listening to answers I asked a question that had been hanging over me, thoughts still unformed as to what the real question was. I asked something like… so what does this post transplant lymphoma mean for me based on being a bone marrow transplant (bmt) patient? To be honest I’m still not sure the root of the question and what I was looking for.  He told us that this lymphoma was a new cancer diagnosis, separate from the CLL that had been treated in the past and by the bmt.  After giving us more information he asked me a question to clarify what I was looking for:  Are you asking about your prognosis, how long you will live?  As soon as he asked I realized that this was not the question that I had been asking. In fact, this question is rarely a concern to me.

I told Dr. Crump (and reminded myself) that I am not concerned about the prognosis of my case, about the estimated time I have remaining now that I have a new cancer diagnosis.  I know that only God knows the days that are numbered for me.  Each of us, in the middle of our own circumstances, are only given today.  I was reminded this week about the Israelites, as they wandered around the desert for 40 years (you can read their story here… (Exodus 16) 

I was reminded that God provided for the Israelites, what they needed, enough for each day. Not enough for the month, not enough for the week (although on the day before the Sabbath the Israelites were required to gather enough for that day and the Sabbath), just enough for today.

And isn’t that the same for us, God gives us what we need.  His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23-24).  And also, This is the day that You have made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few weeks, about how I/we should live my/our lives.  About what it means to live today.  I mean to really LIVE.  To be present in the moment, wherever it finds you.

Nathan and I have been watching the movie Kung Fu Panda a lot lately.  One of my favourite lines comes from the Kung Fu Master to the newly named Dragon Warrior, Po.  He says, Yesterday is history.  “Tomorrow, a mystery.  Today is a gift, that is why it is called the Present.”  Each one is important, not to be ignored.  But today is what is in front of us.  Today is the day that we LIVE.

There is a song that I’ve really enjoyed over the years by an artist Mark Schultz called Time That’s Left.  It asks the questions: What will you do with the time that’s left? What will you do with the time that’s past? What will He say when your time has come?  I enjoy the song more than the video but the words always remind me to live my life with intention, to live now, to live with purpose.  Now, I can’t say that I always do this, but it is my goal.

As I mentioned above, today is Round Two of my fight, there are four rounds of this battle and the scores won’t be tallied until the end. But in the meantime, I will live today, be present in the moments ahead of me, strengthened by God’s grace, peace and strength, just the right amount for today.

Enjoy your day, whatever it holds.

Live fully today,

Heather

This post has been mulling around in my thoughts since last week… Enjoy

We have a young woman from Northern Ireland staying with us right now, a family friend, and last week she had come downtown with us to hang out in Toronto for the day. We met up after the appointments and were deciding how to spend the rest of the day. Our choices were to be tourists in Toronto and catch a Jays game or to head out to Niagara Falls for the afternoon and evening.

We chose Niagara Falls and I’m so glad we did. I’ve only been to Niagara Falls a few times in my life but I am always surprised by the enormity of the Falls and their beauty. After walking by the American Falls and taking all the touristy photos we considered taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist. I’ve always wanted to go on this boat/ride/attraction but I had never had the opportunity to until now. We decided this would be our attraction for the day.

Now we had already seen the beauty and majesty of the Falls from the safety of the roadway but now we were going to venture into the very heart of the rushing water. Dressed in our blue ponchos we were ready for the adventure.

Even as we left the dock I was surprised by the vividness of colour found in the rainbow, at times just parts of a rainbow, at times a full brilliant rainbow and even more than that, at times a full double rainbow. I’ve never seen anything like it. And the rainbows didn’t just stop on top of the water, it was at times as though the rainbows were diving deep into the waters to create a full circle. Perhaps it was just a trick of the eyes but I have a feeling that it was more than that.

My favourite Bible story is that of Noah and the Promise of the Rainbow. I have a house full of Noah’s Arks as a constant reminder to me that God is Faithful and a Keeper of Promises.

As we were heading into the heart of the Falls I spent some time in prayer (with my eyes open since I didn’t want to miss a thing!) starting my prayer Creator God…

The song God of Wonders began to come to mind.

God of all creation
Water, earth and sky
The heavens are your tabernacle
Glory to the Lord on High

God of wonders
Beyond our galaxy
You are holy, holy

The universe declares your majesty
You are holy, holy

***

There I was at the side of the boat, looking at the brilliance of the rainbows, listening to the roar of the water and feeling the coolness of the mist on my face. I was in the middle of my favourite song, the Creation Song, the universe declaring, announcing His majesty. And not just to me but to all who were there around me on the boat, on the shores. There was no escaping this stanza of the Creation Song. Every day, all day announcing, making God known. Now of course not everyone has the eyes to see or the ears to hear this song for what it is but there it was for all to experience. I was in awe.

I was also reminded of Psalm 19:1-6

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.

***

I was years ago that I stumbled upon what I call The Creation Song.  I would be driving home after church in the evening on country roads with my windows down and the deafening sound of the crickets and the other night animals made me think about how all creation sings to God.  There are many  variations of this song. Even now I am listening to the early morning chorus of the birds as they sing their part, make their announcement… You are Holy. You are Majestic.  This song always brings a smile to my face and I love hearing new variations of it.  The chorus of the Falls has left me with a strong impression. It won’t be forgotten.

And with that, Heather

Dear Family and Friends,

I want to write an update this morning that will bring you up to speed on all that has been happening in the last few weeks.  I haven’t written much here in the last few weeks in part because I have been processing all that has gone on and all the new information that we have been given.

After such a great celebration report after my lung biopsy in June, we got some news that set me/us on a detour.  After another lung CT scan and comparing it to the previous scans I was admitted into hospital for the weekend because while some of the nodules had shrunk and disappeared (this was the cause of our celebration of God’s healing…) there were other nodules that still remained. More than that, these nodules were growing and it was undetermined as to what they were.  The weekend in hospital allowed a host of doctors from a variety of specialties to see me and talk about my case.  When I was discharged from the hospital I was followed again by my bone marrow team at PMH and the infectious disease department at TGH.

I must admit that this detour was a surprise to me and made me spend some time in conversation with God about my healing celebrations the week prior.  In a facebook note to a friend I wrote these words:

***

I know that you have been in this spot before. I’ve been mulling over my next blog post and I think it will be an update along with some thoughts on what happens to our faith when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we have asked Him to. Does that change who God is? Does that change my faith turning it to disbelief? Does God still care? Does he see? The answer of course is that God remains the same, my faith is challenged and depending on the foundation on which my faith is built, it grows and relies deeper on the One who loves me and knows me best. He cares for me most and never takes his eyes off of me.

I know that this is hard to understand. It’s hard for me to understand after years of practicing this type of faith. I know that there will be some who won’t understand this, both those who know Jesus and those who don’t. There will be others who will examine their own faith and grow in their understanding of who God is.

***

So that brings me to yesterday.  The final results of the lung biopsy came in and while the results reveal a lot and point us in one direction, they were inconclusive.  I was referred back to the Oncology team, Dr. Crump and Dr. Kurvella, that followed my case prior to transplant because the biopsy results suggest that I have post transplant lymphoma in my lungs. As we discussed a few options yesterday about how to proceed we decided that there was enough information and markers in place to go ahead and treat this as though it is post transplant lymphoma even though the results are inconclusive.  Options were discussed and I will begin a 4 week IV treatment next week to fight the lymphoma. I will go down to PMH once a week for this treatment, administered by IV.  This is not a chemotherapy treatment although we have forgotten the category that this treatment falls under.  I will be monitored closely by Dr. Crump and his team and I am thankful for the history that I have with them and their great care for me, my best treatment plan and for my family.

Psalm 119:11 says, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Over the years I have hidden God’s word in my heart both by memorizing verses and through songs that are based on Bible verses.  At times God brings these verse back to my thoughts to encourage me and remind me of this promises.  As I was looking at the days ahead this song from Nathan’s camp last year came to mind:  Today is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it… And I won’t worry about tomorrow. I’m trusting in what you say. Today is the day.  And then, as Nathan and I were driving back from camp that same day he began to sing a song from my childhood that he had just learned: I’ve got peace like a river… in my soul.  God spoke to me through these childhood songs, comforting my heart and mind.  I didn’t need to worry about the tomorrows because Today is the Day and I can choose to rejoice in it.  This was a joy to my heart and provided the freedom I needed from worry.

I’m not sure what else to say.  I/we are eager to move forward and to put this action plan in place.  We are thankful always for your love, prayers and practical care for us. We know we are loved.

Heather