Just The Facts


Hey Folks,

It’s been a while since I’ve just written an update on my health, but today there is news to relay to you and this seems to be the best way to do it.  I have been fighting with a lung infection for a while now and the doctors have been working hard to discover what exactly has been going on.  Jeff and I were eager to meet with both the Infectious Disease doctor from Toronto General Hospital and with my team at PMH with some answers and some actions plans.  I will just copy/paste the email that Jeff sent out earlier today.  If you would like to be added to this email list, please contact me here or on facebook with your email address and we will add you to our list.

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Hey folks,

Thank you for your continued prayers.

I’m sitting here at PMH and we are just done our third appointment at two hospitals. The update on Heather is this: she has a fungal infection in her lungs that is at a critical stage and is being addressed with adjustments to her meds and some new ones being added. Her future appointments have become more frequent (multiple times a week) as she needs to be seen by and infectious disease doctor at Toronto General and the Bone Marrow Transplant team at PMH.

We were both very encouraged to have answers to the plaguing questions we’ve had regarding Heather’s cough and other things. I was also very thankful to have spent over 30minutes with Dr. Messner as he was explaining things to us and answering many of our questions.

More to come.

Jeff

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Thank you for keeping us in your continued prayers.  We are hopeful and thankful for the action plans that have been put into place and for the close watch that I will be under for the next few weeks and months.

Heather

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Review: Now that we’ve all had a few days to think about wearing LOVE as the most important part of our outfit, let’s take a look at how we’ve done. I can look back and recognize that there have been times over the last few days when I have “put on love” in the morning, praying that my actions, thoughts, speech and behaviours would be covered in love. And I know that there are examples throughout those days when wearing LOVE made everything else easier.  Patience came when I felt unpatient, forgiveness came when I wanted to hold a grudge, kind words (or holding my  tongue…) when I wanted to speak out. I’m not saying that I’ve arrived and I’ve got this whole “dress yourself in love” thing down pat, but on reflection, I am able to see the difference that it is making.  How about you?  Has dressing in love made a difference?  I also know that there have been times that I have forgotten to put on love first, or maybe I’ve just taken it off for a while because it’s too hard to wear… This is an ongoing lesson for me. I’m learning that LOVE is bigger than feelings and the things that I like to do.  It can be hard work, involve sacrifice, and surrender.  It is tied into obedience.  The more I understand and practice love the more I realize that I’ve got a lot to learn.

Favourite Outfits:

I want to take a moment to look at some of the types of outfits that we keep in our closets and how we can relate these to our spiritual closets, our attitudes, behaviours, language and character.

Let’s start off with our favourite outfits. If you think for just a moment, I’m sure that you’ll be able to think of one or two things that you just can’t do without.  My favourite, comfy, cozy go-to outfits include a good pair of jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt and a pair of crazy hand knit socks. It’s nothing fancy but I’m comfortable, confident and feel ready to face the day.  Perhaps for you it’s a favourite skirt, a great pair of black pants or a fitted jacket.  Whatever it is, I’m sure that it is an item that fits you well, is comfortable, makes you looks great and feel confident.

I think that if we take a look at the clothes in our spiritual closet, we will also find some favourite outfits that are equally comfortable and are centered around areas of strength.  These qualities, attitudes and behaviours will be different for everyone based on our God-given giftings and talents.  These “clothes” are a natural extension of who we are based on who God has designed us to be.

If I look into my closet, one of the clothes that I wear well is that of hospitality.  I was raised in a home where my parents practiced hospitality by inviting others into our home for meals, we had people live in our home for extended periods of time and we often made meals for others who were in need. In fact, if I look back further into my family history, my parents were also both raised in this way.  For me, hospitality is both a learned gift passed down through my family heritage and a spiritual act of obedience.  My husband and I often look around to see how we can show hospitality to those around us, opening our home to friends and family, to those who need a place to stay or an invitation to dinner for those who may feel left out or forgotten. Hospitality is one of my favourite outfits to wear because it fits well, it’s comfortable, and it’s familiar.

Other God-given gifts that fit well and I enjoy wearing include encouragement, faith and prayer.  These are a part of who God has designed and created me to be.

So what about you? What are your favourite outfits to wear?  What are those characteristics, behaviours actions and thoughts that are characterize who you are?  Your favourite outfits? How do these “clothes” tie in with the idea of dressing yourself in LOVE?

Health Update: I am scheduled to go down to PMH on Thursday this week to have a follow up regarding my bronchoscopy test. I am eager to meet with my team of doctors and to hear the results of what is going on with this chest infection.  I am also scheduled to meet with one of the specialists next Tuesday for more clarity on what the tests have revealed and how to best move forward. While I’m tired of being sick, coughing and being short of breath I am at peace with the process and filled with thankfulness to God for his Healing and for my team of doctors who care for me not just as a number or disease but as a person, an individual with hopes, plans and dreams.

Love to you all,

Heather

***next up: Clothes that Need to be Thrown Away

This post has been a long time in coming but for good reason.  Yesterday I was speaking at Forward Baptist Church in Scarborough for a Ladies Breakfast and I knew that some of these “What’s in your Closet” thoughts were going to end up in my message.  I will be posting parts of my message here over the next few weeks.  If you haven’t already read What’s in your Closet: Part One you should take a minute to start there.

Love: Bra, Underwear and a pair of  Spanx

Paul says that love is the most important piece of clothing we can wear.  That love itself binds everything else together in perfect harmony.  If that’s the case, then I’d like for us to consider love as the first clothes that we put on in the morning, the foundation of our outfit, our bra and underwear, perhaps a pair of spanx to smooth out some of our lumps and bumps.  These articles of clothing help make everything else fit well.

Think about it.  If the first clothes you put on in the morning are rooted in anger, rage, unforgiveness, hatred and selfishness then everything else, your behaviour, thoughts, actions and speech will all follow in that manner as well.

In the same way, when we first clothe ourselves in love, everything else fits better.  It’s hard to lash out in anger, to spread lies or speak unkind words when your foundation is love.  It’s hard to cheat on your spouse, have greedy thoughts or use filthy language when your foundation is love.  When your motives, behaviours, thoughts, speech and actions are rooted in love everything else falls nicely into place.  When we dress ourselves first with love it is easier to be kind, to show forgiveness, to have patience, to serve others, to be humble and to practice peace.  These characteristics become a natural extension of who we are.  In fact, I believe that even if wearing kindness, forgiveness, patience and humility are difficult or uncomfortable, if they are not a part of those characteristics and behaviours that come naturally to you, that if they are worn over the foundation of love, that over time, they will become easier to wear and will become our first natural response.

Let me give you two examples from my own life.  A few years ago Jeff and I had spent the day downtown in some pretty difficult meetings with the doctors at PMH talking about the upcoming realities of the treatment leading up to the bone marrow transplant.  It was determined that I would be starting chemotherapy in the next week in preparation for the transplant.  This reality weighed heavily on me.  We returned home from a long day and I was tired, both emotionally and physically.  While I was preparing dinner the doorbell rang and when I opened it there was a salesman offering us a new hot water tank.  I politely answered that this was not a good time and that no we weren’t interested.  The salesman persisted in his presentation, I listened and then referred back to Jeff to make sure that we didn’t need a new water tank and assured the salesman a second time that, no, we didn’t need a new water tank.  I began to close the door when he launched into his presentation a third time.  By that time I had had enough.  I had been polite.  I had been patient.  I had been kind, but I was going to lose it.  Without thinking much of the outcome I interrupted his presentation and I spoke these words, “to be honest, I’m more concerned about my upcoming chemotherapy treatments and bone marrow transplant than I am about a new hot water tank.”  The salesman was surprised to say the least, embarrassed, apologetic and walked away.

Now understand, in my head I had rehearsed this type of response many times, but I had always had the self control to keep those words leashed, knowing that they were unkind, ungracious and hurtful, never to be spoken out loud.  As I spoke those words that night, they were the taste of poison on my lips.  I have never forgotten the taste of those words.  I wonder though, if I had been wearing love that day, if love had been the most important part of my outfit, would it not have been easier to be self controlled, kind and patient, even in the face of his rude persistence.  Would there not have been a different outcome to that story? I’d like to think yes.

Another example:  Just over four years ago my mom died from a short, but terrible battle with cancer.  I remember one day a conversation that I had with my sister regarding our Dad.  She told me that she had decided that if Dad was to ever meet another woman that she was going to welcome that woman with open arms into our family.  I agreed with her and we decided that there would be no room for the drama that can accompany blending two families together.  I mean really, how would it be helpful in our relationship to our father, and what type of example would we be setting for our children if we were to say “if she’s going to be there, then we’re not coming…” I’ll never forget the day that Dad called to let me know that he had been spending a bit of time with a woman that he had met at his church.  You could tell from his voice that he was a bit nervous, understandably, about sharing this news and how my sister and I would react.  It was with joy that I was able to tell him about the decision that Pam and I had made, that we were happy for him and that we would do all that we could to welcome her into our lives, not as our mother, but as a friend.  I am happy to say that Dad and Maggie were married just over two years ago and that myself, my sister and our families are thrilled that she has joined our family.  This is an example of how choosing to wear love as a foundation has paved the way for great relationships.  I believe that things would be much different today if my sister and I had instead chosen to be angry, bitter or unloving.

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Health Update:  The past few weeks have been pretty busy with appointments at PMH.  I have had a lingering chest infection and we are working hard together to get to the bottom of it.  I am thankful that my health team was able to see me on Friday and I was quickly scheduled for a CT scan of my lungs and a Pulmonary Functions Test (breathing test).  I was also given some medication to fight the lung infection and a bronchoscopy has been scheduled for Tuesday, April 19th.  The bronchoscopy will determine the type of infection and then lead to a better way to treat it.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been coughing a lot and very short of breath.  I am thankful (continually) for the care that I receive at PMH, for returned phone calls, for sending prescriptions to my local pharmacy and for how quickly they are able to care for my needs.

On a celebratory note: Tomorrow I celebrate 17 months post transplant.  I couldn’t be more thrilled. I am very thankful to have had a stranger donate his/her bone marrow for my transplant.  That being said, I am very aware that there are other patients who are in desperate need for a donor but that there is no match for them.  I meet these people all the time at the hospital. I am very aware that this could have been me… in need of a transplant, but no donor.  For many of these patients this means that they will continue to fight cancer but die because there is not a donor available for a transplant.  I know that I’ve asked before and I will ask it again today… Would you consider adding your name to the Bone Marrow Registry?  Doing this could save a life. Literally.

Thank you for considering this.

Heather

Last week Jeff and I met with one of the doctors from the bmt team and based on my scans, blood work and response to chemo (drumroll please) I was accepted into the bmt program.  I think that if you’ve been following along with our story you’ll understand it when I say that we are eager and excited to move forward with the bmt.

So what does that mean?  The bmt offices will contact the donor centre and “activate the donor” which includes making sure that the donor is still willing, available, healthy and eligible to be a donor.  My next contact with the bmt team will be in about 4 weeks and they “invite” me in for a full day of tests.  These tests will provide a baseline as we move forward with the transplant.  In the meantime I am still meeting with Dr. Crump to evaluate my need for further chemotherapy while we wait for the transplant process to begin.

I’ve mentioned it before but if you are interested in becoming a donor, being on the donor list or learning more about what is involved in a bone marrow transplant you can look at www.onematch.ca.

Jeff and I still believe that a bmt is the best option for me and for our family.  Please note, this is not a “last option”, just the best option given my health at the current time.  We are ready to move forward.

Last week as we were heading into a week full of hospital visits, I was reminded of these verses: Exodus 14:13-14 “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Moses spoke these words to the Israelites just before they were to cross the Red Sea.  They were scared because Pharaoh’s army was coming after them and the sea was raging ahead of them. In the end they all crossed over on dry land and Pharaoh’s army was all killed in the sea.

Another great story of God’s deliverance is found in 2 Chronicles 20.  I am encouraged and reminded that the decision that Jeff and I have made regarding the bmt has been based on wisdom from God, prayer and conversations with friends and family. These biblical accounts remind me of God’s unchanging character and give me hope as we move forward.

Thanks for moving forward with us,

H.

That’s probably a strange title for today’s post because today was a chemo day.  Today was Day One/Round Two of the CHOP chemo and we arrived down at PMH, got Nathan settled and were called in quickly to get set up with an IV.  My nurse today was awesome and we had some good conversations as she went about her work.

But truthfully, the chemo was just the backdrop to my day.  It is the catalyst that caused or allowed all the other events of the day to unfold.

Chemo Party: Jeff stayed with me for my infusions, but at lunch he went down to eat with Nathan and to listen to the “Music in the Atrium” concert (two cello’s and a keyboard).  While he was gone, a good friend from high school who happened to be across the street for the day came by and to visit.  What a great way to pass the time during a chemo appointment!  And then, before I knew it, my sister and my Auntie came in with Jeff following behind.  With four visitor’s in the chemo room it was a bit crowded, but what a treat to catch up with friends and family.  As they left, I thanked the other patients for allowing me this impromptu Chemo Party.

Hat Sale: After I had my own lunch we went back downstairs where there was a hat sale, 50% off.  Unable to resist, I found a new hat for my growing collection that will look great at a wedding this weekend.

Family: We went for a walk downtown for a bit to just look around some of the shops and the day finished off with some great ice cream. Believe me when I tell you that watching a two year old eat an ice cream cone is both delightful and disgusting.  He had a blast and it was worth every drippy bite.

Home Sweet Home: As we drove into the driveway I could tell that something was different about our house.  There was a bench in the front entryway that wasn’t there when we left this morning.  I questioned Jeff about it but he pretended not to know anything about the transformation to our house today.  After walking through the front door, I could see that our house had been transformed.  I was bawling before Jeff and Nathan could even make their way through the door.  A few weeks ago a friend began to put a plan in action to gather a group of people to come and clean our house.  It is significant to me that the last words I spoke this morning as I left the house this morning were, “yeah, I know, it looks like a bomb went off here”.  And more than just cleaning, there are meals in the fridge and freezer and other gifts to make the days ahead easier for me and my family.

The Biggest Thing: I think that the most significant thing to me is this:  That you guys love my family.  That you know that Jeff and Nathan are being affected by all that is happening to me and that you are loving and caring for them in significant ways.  That brings such joy and blessing to me.  It makes it easier for me to face an upcoming long stay in the hospital for the bmt procedure and the long time of recovery because I know that they are loved and cared for.  They are not forgotten.

So thank you, all of you who were a part of today.  Despite the chemo and the cancer, today was a great day.  A day I won’t ever forget.  A day that I will tell and retell of God’s ongoing and overwhelming provision to us.  A day that will stand out as a forever reminder of God’s character and His love to us.

Overwhelmed.

H.

p.s.  I don’t know who cleaned the downstairs bathroom but I know that you must have drawn the short stick.  I hope there’s an extra jewel in your crown waiting for you in heaven.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

As I’ve been preparing to lose my hair, I’ve been reflecting on fleeting nature of beauty.  Isn’t it true?  We all get older and our physical appearance starts to change.  Wrinkles, gray hair, thinning hair, and “love handles” are just a few ways that our bodies betray us as we advance in years.  And the health and beauty industry is right there to offer all kinds of solutions with lotions, diets and exercise plans to make us feel better about our aging bodies.

I was watching TV this afternoon and a commercial for Cover Girl came on.  Their spokeswoman, Ellen, starts of the commercial like this:  “Inner beauty is important, but not nearly as important as outer beauty.”  My jaw dropped.  I just watched it again and I’m still stunned.  I realize that she’s trying to sell a product, but I wonder what other messages she’s selling with these words?

Then I found this verse, talking about the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

What a woman! I really liked this verse because I hope, in some small way, that I am like her.  She can laugh at the days to come.  I don’t know all of what is around the corner for my family and I (and for those of you who are standing by our side) but I sure hope to face it all with a smile on my face, joy in my heart and a room full of laughter.  Not that nervous laughter that comes from fear but the deep belly laughs that bring cheer to my heart and to those around me, the joy that comes from having this confidence: If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

Update: This week has been a bit crazy here at our house.  Monday morning I woke up and felt like someone had poured cement into my lungs while I was sleeping and it was hardening away.  I called my GP and arranged an appointment for Wednesday afternoon.  Well, the appointment didn’t come soon enough and I found myself back at the ER with a temperature of 39.2.  After a good amount of time I was given some antibiotics and sent home.  I was warned by the pharmacist that it would leave a metallic taste in my mouth.  She also suggested eating popsicles, sour candies or other strong flavoured food to mask the taste.  I’ll be trying that as soon as I get myself to the store for some sour keys.  Yuck!

Also, this week I’ve been in bed a lot.  Jeff has picked up the slack and he’s tired too.  I was glad “the boys” took him out for a movie last night as an escape from all his work here at the house.  I’m hoping that my tiredness is just a result of the chest infection (which is clearing up) and that I’ll return to having a bit more energy when it’s cleared up completely.

And, for the big “ta-da”: I went to the salon and had my head shaved.  If I was going to lose my hair anyways, I had decided to lose it all on my own terms.  A few weeks ago Jeff had met with the Manager, Katie, at Salon Chic to have my hair cut and to be pampered a bit.  So, I called on Wednesday morning and booked an appointment.  I arrived and started off with a scalp massage (where I lost obscene amounts of hair) and then a shampoo and condition (where I continued to lose more hair) and then for the cut.  She cut all my hair short to start with and SURPRISE my hair is very curly!  Strange.  Then we moved on to the clippers with a #2 guard.

I must admit that it’s a bit strange to have a shaved head.  I’ve always had A LOT of hair.  The strangest thing is catching sight of my shadow.  My hair continues to fall out and I’ve got a pretty good bald patch at the front.  All in all, I’m still laughing at the days to come.

With laughter in my heart,

H.

Update: It’s day 9 of my 21 day cycle and I’m still feeling pretty good. The strangest thing so far is the change to my taste buds. My food all tastes different but I’ve decided that I’ll have to just get used to it. The other option just leaves me very hungry. I also noticed an increase in my appetite for the first few days, which was surprising to me, but I think that this was a reaction to one of the medications that I was on at the beginning. My hair is starting to fall out, one by one, but I understand that this will increase dramatically over the next few days.

This week the nurses have been coming in to give me a Neupegon injection over the course of 7 days. The nurses and Dr. Crump all suggested that I could learn to do this myself or that Jeff could learn to administer the needle to me. Not being a big fan of needles, and since I love Jeff a whole lot, I decided that if the nurses were happy to come to the house, I was happy to be home each day when they arrived. So far, so good.

Hugs and Kisses: As I reach the middle days of the 21 day cycle, I know that the chemo is at work attacking my blood cells and lowering my immunity to all kinds of health risks. That means that I have become super conscious of hand washing and the potential risks that my environment and other people present to me.

So what does that mean? Well, I had a decision to make. I could decide to either 1) walk around with non-latex gloves and a mask on in all public places, OR 2) I could stop shaking hands and greeting family and friends with a hug and kiss. Both are socially awkward, but wearing gloves and a mask seem a bit over the top for me.  Just try it… Next time when someone leans in for a hug, take a step back and say “I can’t do that.”

Hearth Place: Yesterday we traveled out to Oshawa to visit Hearth Place. This is a Cancer Support Centre that offers a variety of programs including counseling, support groups, yoga, walking classes, children’s groups and a wide variety of programs designed to meet the needs of patients, caregivers and their families. We had a tour of the centre and Nathan was given a care package that included some toys, crayons and colouring book and stickers. Also included in his gift bag was a booklet for children about cancer and a guide for parents as they talk with their kids about the changes that are going on in their family. I’m looking forward to taking some time to look over the resources that are offered at Hearth Place, attending some programs and learning more about how to best talk to Nathan, my nieces and other children (and their parents) who I know that are impacted by my cancer story or a cancer story of their own.

That’s it for tonight. I’m doing my best to enjoy each day with Jeff and Nathan and enjoy living my life.

Love to you all,

H.

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