(note: part one was never added… I’ll fix that later…)
Dear Family and Friends,
It’s been a while since I last sent a note so I am offering this update in two forms. At the top you will find a Coles Notes version of the last few months. Below that you will find the lengthier “Heather’s Notes” to which you have all become accustomed. Enjoy!
I finished off my last letter to you with these words from the November 18 devotional in Streams in the Desert:
“I may find myself confined to narrow areas of service, or isolated from others through sickness or by taking an unpopular stance, when I had hoped for much wider opportunities. Yet the Lord knows what is best for me, and my surroundings are determined by Him. Wherever He places me, He does so to strengthen my faith and power and to draw me into closer communion with Himself. And even if confined to a dungeon, my soul will prosper… So, let come what will come, His will is welcome.”
***As I approached the three year milestone, I had certainly hoped for, even expected much wider opportunities. But I believe with all of who I am that God knows best and that I am here in this place for a purpose, to strengthen my faith and to be drawn closer to Him. Today I find myself in the middle of those “hoped for wider opportunities” and I share these things with you, my family and friends from a heart that is overflowing with great JOY and THANKSGIVING.
Photopheresis: At the end of December it was decided that I would stop the photopheresis treatment which was treating the gvhd of my skin. This has been a decision that has reduced my hospital visits from 4-5 full days of treatments, tests and appointments each month to just one full day of appointments.
My Lungs: At my last appointment at the end of January I had a CT scan and a Lung Function Test. I was nervous that there would be no good results based on how I was feeling at the time. Both tests showed great improvement. While the CT scan still shows “spots” the doctor’s are not worried.
Hand Cramps: One of my current health concerns is that most days my hands cramp up, almost as though a strong magnet pulls my pinky and my thumb together. It is painful, right up to my elbows, and I am still trying to figure out ways for relief. There are many suggestions from doctors, patients and Google as to what is the culprit (the transplant itself, prednisone, imbalance of vitamins, food triggers… the list goes on). While this isn’t a major concern for the doctors, it is something that bothers me. Even some of this letter has been typed out with just one finger. This cramping often comes in the afternoon (around 12:30) and can last for just a few minutes or for a few hours.
Predinisone: When I stopped the photopheresis treatment, it became necessary to start on Prednisone again to combat some of the gvhd that is going on in my body. While this is a fantastic medication, it also has side effects that I am still wrestling with. My prayer is that I would be able to come off this medication quickly (and safely) and that my body would function properly without this medication.
Knitting/World Vision: I will elaborate in the Heather’s Notes below… During my frustration with my health throughout the fall God laid it on my heart to help fund a Mobile Medical Clinic through the World Vision Gift Catalogue, to Make a Difference, One Stitch at a Time. In order to fund this project I began to knit hats and mittens and sew some Christmas ornaments with the entire purchase price going towards these health initiatives. This has filled me with an ongoing sense of greater purpose, those wider opportunities I mentioned before.
Speaking: I will be speaking at the World Vision staff chapel on Wednesday, February 13 and would value your prayers as I share my cancer/bmt story.
Other News:I am volunteering in Nathan’s grade 1 class one day/week and I have started to learn French in a continuing education class this winter.
OH! There is so much more I could tell you but for now I’ll sign off for some of you as you finish the Coles Notes.
May you, my dear Family and Friends, know today, that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, that you were created ON PURPOSE and FOR A PURPOSE.
With Joy that TRIUMPHS,
This following story is mostly about how God has planted a seed in me to make a difference by helping to fund medical initiatives through World Vision through my knitting projects. It is not to shine a light on me, but to give thanks and glory to God, for He alone has opened up my eyes to see the wide opportunities that are right in front of me.
This summer and fall, as I have already written, was filled with doctor’s appointments and treatments. During that time, there was a growing tension in my heart. On one side I had a deep understanding that I was receiving world-class treatment, in world-class facilities, treated by world-class doctors. I knew that if I had been born almost anywhere else in the world that my healthcare team and treatment would look radically different. More than that, if I had been born in a different part of Canada, even Ontario, the easy access to this top-notch care would not be the same. I was (and continue to be) overwhelmed and thankful for my healthcare team and treatment.
But here’s the thing: While I knew deeply that all this was true, I couldn’t understand this growing frustration inside of me each time I needed to go downtown for treatment or appointments.
One day while waiting to cross from PMH to TGH, with Sick Kids (another world class facility) and Mount Sinai just down the street I wrestled with own thoughts, “there are people in this world, in this country, in this city, who would do anything for the kind of healthcare access that I have available at my doorstep, at the dial of a button. People are sick, literally dying because they don’t have access to doctor’s, nurses, medicine which I take for granted. Even knowing all this, I was unthankful. More than, I was frustrated by my own reaction to these opportunities. In conversations with friends I was told that it was right to feel this way, that it was okay to be frustrated with my current hospital schedule but I just couldn’t believe that was true. Believing that lie was life draining for me.
And then, right there on the side of University Avenue, my heart broke and a seed was planted in the fertile soil of my heart. A seed of potential, a seed of hope, a seed to change the world.
For a while I had been thinking about partnering with World Vision through their Gift Catalogue in order to raise money to help fund a Mobile Medical Clinic. A Mobile Medical Clinic gift can be purchased at the price of $400, an amount that was much more than I had the potential to earn, more than I could save, more than I could imagine. I began to pray about what I could do to make that different. How could I give any money to this project if my health circumstances dictate that I can’t work and our family budget didn’t have room to fund a project at this cost?
And as I prayed, God spoke healing to my broken heart: “you can’t earn a living, but you can still make a difference, one stitch at a time.” And so it began. I decided to raise money for a World Vision Mobile Clinic through the gift catalogue. I wasn’t sure if it was even possible, but I decided that however long it would take, I would just keep knitting and making Christmas ornaments and sell them to family and friends and in return give the entire purchase price to this project.
And so, I started out with just a $4.00 investment along with the wool and other craft supplies that I have collected throughout the years. And then, the most amazing things started to happen. As I shared my purpose and passion with others, as I talked about the dream of helping to fund a Mobile Clinic, as I cast a vision to others, the vision became contagious. Suddenly family, friends and strangers started to join in, buying the things that I had made, offering to help knit, or sell, or sew. Others gave money to help fund some of material costs or donated wool that they were no longer using so that together, we could begin to provide life saving medical opportunities for people who would otherwise never have opportunity to receive medical help. It has been and continues to be important to me, to sell my items at prices compared to what you would find in the store so that anyone can join in. At the same time, all of my knitting items are listed at suggested donation prices so that there are no financial barriers for someone who would like to partner in this vision.
I’m here today to tell you that this dream has come true and it is STILL coming true!
You see over the years, I have learned that God’s faithful provision is beyond what I can ever imagine. Only God can take four bucks, some wool, knitting needles, a willing heart and a dream and turn that into LIFE SAVING medical opportunities for people who otherwise would be without. I am humbled and overwhelmed that God could use me, this 38 year old cancer/bmt survivor to change the world, for His glory.
This has been a wild ride, to be sure, but the biggest change has been in me. It is true, that since just before Christmas that my health circumstances have changed and I am only down at the hospital for one full day of appointments each month, but my heart has changed. I have been reminded that I was created ON PURPOSE and FOR A PURPOSE and I have begun to live that more fully. My goal, my dream is to continue to knit or create items to sell in order to fund medical initiatives through World Vision for as long as I have two hands to knit with. I want to tell my story, giving God all the glory and immobilize you to do the same with all the gifts, resources and talents that God has uniquely outfitted you with.
Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurable more that all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!
With Triumphant Joy,