Thursday, December 27, 2012

THE END


...or the beginning!

We got 'unofficial' word today that Terry's PET scan revealed that the cancer was "completely resolved" and "crystal clear".... barely breathing still! Lots of tears. 

Both oncologists are still out for the holiday, but our wonderful ENT called to say how excited he was for Terry and to congratulate him on a great report...he didn't know that we hadn't yet heard results. 

Terry will see this ENT and one of the oncologists next week for a more official report...but we're taking this one as sure and true. 

Ten thousand thank-yous to all of you who have encouraged us and prayed for us this year. Looking forward to a cancer-free 2013. 

God is good and faithful.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

the big 3-0


I married the best guy ever - thirty years ago today. 

My heart is ... full, thinking about this last year. 

Days and nights so difficult - watching Terry do the near-impossible - like sleep and eat. And the inescapable - suffering. So much that even now I can't think about the hardest days and nights in August and September without wincing. 

In three days Terry will have a PET scan. Positron Emission Tomography. It's when somebody sticks a needle, alive with a radio active tracer, into your vein. Then beams you through a somewhat magical ring which records what the tracer discovers. It just takes a few minutes. 

The PET is late Friday. Results are read by numerous doctors. Radiologists. Oncologists. ENTs. Surgeons. They pass them around electronically. And then they all have to talk about it. They are busy people. Monday is Christmas Eve. 

Last night I dreamed that scene from "Chariots of Fire" when Harold Abrahams stands at the starting line of his 100 meter Olympic race. Ten seconds from history. In the film he is almost overcome by the thought that all his years of mental and athletic preparation will be finished, rewarded by gold, or not, in a mere 10 seconds. His fear is that his sacrifice will be meaningless in loss.

I have heard that starting gun in my head all day.

I have also heard a still, small voice say it isn't so. The last 30 years, while relatively uneventful from the view of an outsider, have taken two people from lives of, well, two people and turned them into something else. And we are no where near finished. Winning gold is not the point, the living the 10 seconds is. The preparation and the sacrifice is. The joy of the race is. 

My full, robust, hardy, honest expectation is that cancer is gone forever from our lives. That all the other tests for the next 30 years (at least) will be perfectly clean and clear. 

But I am saying now...even. if. it. isn't. Even if there are more days and nights of suffering for the one who has become, somewhat unexpectedly, my hero, we will do it together. The "I do's" of two who really had no idea of what the cost would be 30 years ago are still "I do" and "I will" and "I covenant" and "I love you."

Not because we are anything special, but because God is good and faithful. And we are stubborn.   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

velveteen Terry


Only when forced by some big-eyed child will I read "The Velveteen Rabbit." My heart has never been able to stand it, and I'm not too certain why. Maybe there's too much truth in the story, maybe there's not enough?

But lately Terry reminds me of that tired, beloved object. Don't get me wrong, Terry is looking good these days - 2 months post treatment. He is stronger, he has regained some weight, his radiation burns are gone, his color is much better. There have been moments lately when I've seen a return to pre-May 10th Terry. His hair still looks a bit pin-feather-ish and he just has that well-loved look about him...if you didn't know the story of his last 6 months.

If you know to really LOOK, you see the ravages of cancer and cancer treatment. It's hard to stand it. And I am not too certain why. The body of the  beloved so, well, used. Abused. Burned. Hurt. Healed. Saved. 

Yesterday, almost 6 months to the day when there was a diagnosis Terry's oncologist read his first post-treatment CT results aloud to us. He said things like "this is as good as it gets" and "this is a very positive result" and "I believe after the PET in December you will see all will be well." It took our breath away.

Just two of the tumors are still visible and they appear to be shrinking still. I watched through my fingers as the doctor did a scope exam of his throat.  Compared to the photos from May, even to my eyes, this throat was beautifully clear and free from the angry cancer growth. Doctors don't use words like 'healed' and 'cancer free' for years after diagnosis and treatment. We are encouraged and hopeful and stunned and blessed. And other things we haven't figured out yet. 

Terry has a raging thrush infection, not unusual when your salivary glands aren't working and the chemistry in your mouth is messed up. He still has a mostly liquid diet. He has some pain and nausea and weird side effects and experiences lots of exhausted hours every day. There is still a road of healing - spirit, soul and body - to be walked.

But, oh, my goodness. 

God is good and faithful.  


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's a good thing....


It's a good thing we were wearing our Alex Reinis "Be Awesome" bracelets. 

Clerical errors abounded today and there was no CT as scheduled. We were all excited and hopeful to hear that the tumors in Terry's throat and lymph glands were gone as we've been praying- please God. But not this week. We're still on the roller coaster.

Terry had labs and his port irrigated and cleaned. We got loved on by the nurses and techs and one oncologist. We saw the kid who got diagnosed with cancer when he thought he was just getting his tonsils out - he was bald but had his trach removed and looked great. He told us his mid-treatment CT showed no tumor at all...we hugged and rejoiced with him in the middle of the hall. We saw one of our favorite breast cancer ladies looking really fragile. Her beautiful blue eyes lit up when we came in, we got to pat her gently and pray for her. 

Then it was sort of all downhill. The CT lab we were assigned didn't have the correct machine for the diagnostic CT ordered. They found another lab with an open appointment and we rushed across town to get there in time. Terry filled out the required pages and pages of paperwork and we waited for about an hour in a room full of crying children and miserable people. 

They called him back, I settled in for another wait .... and he reappeared. Too soon. The notes about the reaction he gets from the drugs administered for the CT and PET scans didn't get sent along with the orders. No CT without a week of prednizone and antihistamines and something else I can't remember.

We have to wait. Another. Whole. Week. Bummer.  

It's honestly not THAT big a deal. It is so great that he didn't get the drugs which would have made him really sick and put him in the hospital overnight. What does just a week of drugs that make him feel nauseous matter in the light of the long summer he has already so valiantly persevered?

But we both got teary. And the nurse got teary. One of us got mad and just went to the parking lot to get the car. (Me) One of us asked careful questions and made the game plan for the next week. (Terry) We got apologies from every direction. 

We sat in the car and cried some and laughed some. It's just so stinking disappointing. We are determined to be found faithful, even if we cry and get mad first. It's no stretch for Terry to 'be awesome.' I'm working on it.  

God is good and faithful.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

loving Waco....


I went to Waco today. For a girl who loves big cities, I can't seem to get enough of that place and all the people so dear to me who live there.  But I like to go, period. Often and there isn't a place on the planet I can think of I wouldn't like to visit. 

It was still dark this morning when I left home and I couldn't shake an unidentifiable feeling. Vague unease. Like I was forgetting something. Maybe missing something. About Belton I realized I haven't been out of the Austin city limits since May. I haven't been physically further away from Terry than the other side of Austin in that many months. 

It was that feeling when you leave your baby with a sitter the first time. Or when your loved one gets wheeled off down a hospital corridor. Or when your kid leaves the country. A little breathless.

I made it, he made it. We talked on the phone several times. We didn't used to be that kind of couple. We like being together, but we're ok to be apart a bit too. Hhmm.

We're nearing the first test since the end of treatment - 12 days until the first CT post chemo and radiation. It will tell us just what is happening to the tumors in the lymph glands and in his throat. It takes a lot of energy not to think about this too much. 

He's doing so well - enormously better than just a month ago - the radiation burn is just a shadow, not much crud left in his throat, no nausea, just a little pain, some ability to taste, maintaining weight and some fuzzy baby-eagle looking hair. A lot of exhaustion, not much salivary gland function, an easily overwhelmed nervous system, little appetite and really tired of smoothies. But so much better.

It poured rain all the way home. There were four accidents and stop-and-go traffic for almost three hours. My 200,000 mile plus-one-check-engine-light-on-beloved-Rav4 delivered me home one more time. The three people I love most in the world were in the house. And a grumpy cat. There's no where else I'd rather be. 

But. My new passport came in the mail. Hhmm. 

God is good and faithful. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Republic Hill

Gardeners snipped hedges, sprinklers whirred, flags snapped in the breeze, the traffic on 7th Street moved briskly. I could hear a train and several times church bells. But all the sounds were swallowed up by quiet.

I spent some time this afternoon on Republic Hill in the Texas State Cemetery. Nobody I know was being buried, I just had to be in East Austin for a couple of hours and my favorite coffee shop was packed. So much for a working afternoon. There's no Internet on the hill, it was a beautiful day. 

The breeze was blowing hard enough to stir the many Texas flags up and down the lanes. There's a little flowing brook and lots of birds. The trees are amazing. There was thunder rumbling in the distance - and just enough ambiance for cemetery walking.

So I walked and prayed and read stones. 

I visited one of my favorite Elizabet Ney sculptures - Albert Sydney Johnson's reclining form. Such delicate beauty in such a place.

I felt braver about the upcoming elections, like maybe every elected official might not be a nut when I sat at Barbara Jordan's feet and read the words there - "Patriot" and "Eloquent Champion of Ethics and Justice."

I wandered by James Michener's memorial and was thankful to my bones for all the history I've enjoyed in his books. I got teary-eyed when I came upon Fred Gipson's stone unexpectedly.

A bigger than life statue of Stephen F. Austin stands high atop granite squares and points off into the east. There are the stones of governors and lawyers, judges, railroad officials, masons, football coaches, poets, artists and authors. Speakers and Signers and First Ladies. Medal of Honor recipients and senators. Susanna Dickinson and Ann Richards - oh, my. You have to be somebody special to be buried there.

There are angels and sheep and obelisks, fountains and sculptures, pink granite, gray and black. Old, undecipherable carvings and proud new ones made for the generations. 

There was one double husband-wife stone with a very long braggadocios list of the husband's accomplishments in education, government, lodge and church and the actual dates he did whatever wonderful thing he did. On the wife's side were the simple and almost apologetic words, "She was ever faithful." Good thing she died first. 

Alfred Lord Tennyson's lines, "Such a one do I remember whom to look on was to love" were present on several stones as were other sentiments both sincere and beautiful. There were scriptures and things that were sort of like scripture, poems and ridiculous sayings..."It was a great ride."

And there were rows and rows and rows and rows of dead soldiers. Two Revolutionary War veterans...although I can't figure how they got to Texas. Confederate generals and privates. Men with names like Claude and Martin and Sylvester from World Wars and 'conflicts.' New graves without grass to cover just yet.

It was a lovely afternoon place to pray, not sad or morbid, just beautiful. I prayed for our government, for my family far and wide, for dear friends, for creativity to abound in our lives, for the many children I love who started school this week, for troubles and grief, for soldiers everywhere. And the parents and spouses who send them off to war.

And I was mindful and thankful.


Terry had a good day off today. He mostly waited for repairmen to come and fix things that were broken last week. He puttered and napped. And drank so much tomato soup that he broke out in a rash.
: ) Thank you for your continued prayers. 

God is good and faithful. 





Friday, August 24, 2012

late last night....



This is Fiona. She has been at our house a few months, it started out as a fostering situation, and she is still here. She is contrary. She is cute. Entertaining. Even endearing. But I don't love Fiona yet.

Last night when she started throwing up I went into "do whatever it takes" mode and just got the job done. Mostly this meant wiping up cat vomit from every (literally) room in the house as she fled before the efforts of the three of us - Stephen, Emily and I, to catch and contain her. In the end she just had nothing more to throw up. Emily put the soiled duvet cover from her room in the wash, Stephen took out the trash full of nasty clean-up paper towels, Fiona curled up beside Terry, who had slept through it all, and peace descended. I sat down to have a cup of tea until I could put the next load of vomited-on bathroom rugs through the washing machine. 

And in the quiet, I got it. Finally. I think we must be winning this thing.

Because since last Sunday... 
     - the breezeway porch roof collapsed in a thunderstorm leaving a gaping entrance from the outside world into our attic
     - in the same storm the pool overflowed into the screened porch and messed with the innards of the hot tub
     - the AC went out on Terry's truck
     - the 'coils' went out on my car
     - the refrigerator needed a major repair
     - two of the three non-cancer patient members of our family have had medical challenges - one requiring 6 weeks of physical therapy, one requiring monthly labs and a new medication for the next 5 months

By Wednesday afternoon we were pretty much waiting for the next thing. And then laughing as it came. Not laughing in the 'funny ha-ha' kind of way but instead the 'HA, bring it on, we're shaking in our boots, but bring it on anyway' kind of way. 

To be honest I am praying that the last cat-tastrophy has happened this week. But if not, we've got too much invested in life these days. Giving up and whining is not an option. Acting crappy and treating one another in a crappy way is just not happening. No glory-to-us, our eyes have just seen seen the prize. Love is worth it. We are certain 'the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is his faithfulness.' 

Landis family economics and cabin fever necessitated Terry going back to work a few hours four days this week. He did well but is exhausted. He is still on a liquid diet but has felt hungry and even ate a couple of mushed up tater-tots one day. Low-level nausea persists as does pain in his throat and tongue, but over all he feels better each day. The oncologists have set a CT for late September and a PET for late December. I can't wait. Because I am pretty sure we are winning.

God is good and faithful.      
     
     


     

Thursday, August 16, 2012

peonies



Peonies don't really grow in Texas but they became my favorite flower a few years ago when I spent the afternoon with a friend on a hillside in Germany where they grew beautiful and semi-wild. The conversation that day was about our marriages and our children, friendship and life, duty and joy. It was a holy place for me then and now in my memory. 

These days when I've needed a little bit of a quiet and holy spot I've gravitated to a funky florist shop in Austin, converted from a gas station, where there's a walk-in cooler full of flowers. Almost always there are peonies. I feel sure the guys who work behind the counter roll their eyes and think, "there she is AGAIN" when I slip in the front door. But they don't bother me while I stand in the cooler. This florist is near a large hospital so I doubt I am the only one who comes in and weeps among the blooms.

The cooler and the glider beside my pool in the backyard, the week-day empty hallways of my church and the inflatable bed where I am sleeping are my private holy places. The more public ones are just as precious. Holding hands with friends over a meal. The sink in our master bathroom.  The grocery aisles, the waiting rooms. The park where I watch the child of a friend. The kitchen counter full of medicine bottles. The car where Emily and I talk as we drive. My office, the yogurt shop, the drug store.  

All these places are somehow holy as we navigate this season of healing. The only sure thing in the ebb and flow of these painful days is that grace meets us in each place, public and private. 

Terry is improving in many ways, still has a way to go in others. He has an amazing attitude and sense of humor, is patient and positive, full of courage and hope while I can often be found heading for the peony cooler. I was thankful for my husband that day on the German hillside, I am even more so now. Is it just that our hearts are so tender, just that we are so grateful? If so, I want to stay aware of these holy spaces and hours, not to forget.

God is good and faithful. I am pretty sure He made peonies. 



Monday, August 6, 2012

10 days post treatment


Terry's beverage of choice these days, well, really his meal of choice -Promised Land Midnight Chocolate Milk. If you've never indulged you should splurge and give it a try. One cup = 240 calories via the 'divine bovines' in Floresville, Texas.

We're thinking about food a lot at our house, though no eating is yet taking place. Terry watched cooking shows all afternoon on Sunday instead of the Olympics. It encouraged me no end. Some day we will cook and eat again at our house.

Today makes 10 days post treatment. Last week was very, very difficult  - Terry was unable to drink much of anything. We took him to the infusion lab Wednesday and Friday to tank up on a couple of liters of fluids and anti-nausea meds. We stayed very low and quiet. One of us cried some, one of us was brave. We believe he has 'turned the corner' towards recovery. Today he just needed one liter of fluid and is looking and feeling some better. Big thanks to those divine bovines.

The radiation burns on his neck and face are healing - they are itchy and feel like a really harsh sunburn. His throat is at about a pain level of 7 most of the time, the nausea is about a 5 with medication. He is consistently loosing weight for the first time since treatment began, so of course is feeling weak. His hair is mostly gone, but bald is cool. Other assorted side effects are slowly waning. Those are about all the details I am allowed to share. 

Know we are feeling loved and cared for by all your sweet messages in texts and emails, thoughtful packages and silly gifts. Know we are finding solid ground under our feet each day. Know we are following the example of many of you who have gone before us and shared your stories of suffering and healing. Know we are finding joy each day in small and unexpected ways. Know we are winning most of those skirmishes which happen between our ears. Know we are hearing the Voice we most long to hear daily. 

That's me with the royal We again. But I am right. Terry is amazing. Be impressed with him. And thankful with us for chocolate milk.

God is good and faithful.    


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

just a crack or two...



Sometimes I read Leonard Cohen's poems from a beat up paperback I picked up from the $1 bin at Half Price Books. I won't pretend to understand them, but I like to think about them. 'Anthem' is one of my favorite meditations because it has these lines -  'there is a crack, a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.'


We're feeling pretty broken and cracked. They said these would be the hardest days, and they have been. Terry's body is taking the last beating chemo and radiation have for him. He, again, has responded with courage and faith. I am so proud of him. As much as I hate watching him suffer I am trusting that every cancer cell is being decimated. I am trusting that every minute of treatment and each day of pain will have been productive and that in a few months the PET scan report will be completely clean and he will be cancer free.


In June last year I wrote a post called 'my ideal woman' about a friend called Julie M and her husband. I had no idea. In the year since they have fought the fight valiantly, loved one another well, trusted and prayed, talked and listened, lived lives of example and sacrifice before their daughters and friends, and they've become even more broken. 



In my cracked-ness a few weeks ago I texted her, "Julie, how do you do it?" and her answer was, "Trudy. I pray like crazy. All the time." 


I believe her in a whole new way. I am living in the the light shining from her life.



As the hero at our house has suffered mightily this week the hero at their house has been moved to ICU. And barring a miracle their battle will be over sooner than anyone wants. 
                                                                                                            
The light is in their broken pots and is illuminating a path for us. Terry and me ... and you.


Fight valiantly your fight, whatever it is. Love well. Trust with every fiber. Be cracked. Welcome light. Give it back.

Thank you a million times for your sustaining kindness and prayers for Terry and me, for Stephen and Emily. 


Would you pray too, even if you don't know them, for Scott and Julie, Madison and Ashley? 


God is good and faithful. 







Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One last time...



It was a slow and quiet day in the chemo lounge. Here's the sweet faced angel who looked down on Terry all day - the others walked around in scrubs.  Here's the last bag of cisplatin (please God) to ever drip into his vein. 


Many prayers were answered. His blood work was great, his weight was stable. The day was quiet and uneventful. Terry slept on and off for several hours. We were finished by 4:30, Terry wanted, and ate half, a bowl of miso tofu soup on the way home.


There were new drugs. A patch for nausea and another for pain, plus a liquid pain med so he won't have to swallow pills while it hurts so much. 


Both the radiology and medical oncologists expressed their amazement at how well he is doing, how thankful they are he hasn't had many of the side effects which are possible, how pleased they are with treatment so far...and they then give warnings. This last treatment week and then the next 7-10 days will be the most difficult - the pain won't be over on Friday, we won't know the outcome of treatment for weeks and even months. The radiation burns on his neck won't heal for several weeks, the ones in his throat for 4-6 weeks, he won't taste or have salivary gland function for months, his hearing may continue to be affected, lack of energy is expected, his immune system is still fragile...


We listen, then smile and turn the volume down of their words in our heads. We know. It is still going to be hard for a while. Smoothies are going to be the main course for several weeks. We're gonna need drugs and the alternative therapies we've chosen to help out for a while. There are still going to be moments when things are very difficult. I'm still going to cry, he's still going to suffer and be brave and strong, weak and dependent all at the same time. We know.


Every day has had sufficient grace. Every minute we've felt Beloved and loved. Not once have we felt alone or abandoned. Exhausted and terrified a few times, but not alone. We are fighting, and being fought for. There is nothing to do but to live fully in this season, to learn to be loved and known here. It's the paradox of 'this is so terrible' and 'how can I be anywhere else?'.


Your prayers are our strength, friends. Thank you. 


God is good and faithful.





Saturday, July 21, 2012

"We must believe....




...that what makes us vulnerable makes us beautiful to God and dangerous to the enemy." I've been wrestling with this sentence since I read it.


Vulnerable. Beautiful. Dangerous. 

We are so vulnerable. Terry's immune system. Our hearts toward one another and to the words and deeds of others. Our ears to the very still, quiet Voice. 

There is much beauty. Terry's determination to finish treatment well, his will to serve others each day, his patience in significant pain. Our kids and their quiet attention. Our friends and their varicolored care. Our families and the ways their love is expressed. I think I am seeing glimpses of what God sees in people. The fellowship of suffering is beautiful. 

Terry's weakness is dangerous - I see it in his eyes, I watch it come alive in his actions. I wouldn't mess with him if I had a motive less than pure these days. Not that he would hurt you, but looking closely at who he is will stop you in your tracks. I try not to be, but I am a little dangerous in much less effective ways. I implore strangers in smoking areas to stop. I resolutely ask socially awkward questions. I beg friends to not abuse substances or themselves. I find myself pressing those I love toward wholeness - hard. 

But words are regularly more illusive. I don't really have any for the girl with the multi-pierced face and the multi-sliced arms in the yogurt shop. None for the guy in the time slot before Terry at radiation who comes out looking more not-real than real. Zero for the car repair guy who tells me about his wife's breast cancer. Nothing when a friend cries over his daughter's anorexia. All my words seem under the enforced and captive teaching of this season - instead I find myself hugging and patting. And in ever-present empathetic tears.  

You can laugh, if you know me well. Me without words IS funny. But you had better be careful as well - because I am also less afraid and more dangerous to that which is not true. It's possible I might hug you or I might say to you what I haven't before because I now see you more clearly in your vulnerability and in your beauty. You and your story are powerful and too needed to not be acknowledged. You are even more precious and I love you even more. 




One more chemo - Monday. Five more radiation days - Monday through Friday. Friday is Terry's birthday. The light at the end of the tunnel is growing larger. Please continue to pray for Terry in these last treatment days.


God is good and faithful. 


Friday, July 13, 2012

tech support

A year or so ago Terry spent some very frustrating hours trying to fix a computer problem. He finally called tech support. The helpful guy on the other end of the phone spent another long while with him and - success - whatever didn't work now worked. Terry affirmed the techy guy, told him how much he appreciated the listening ear and the care he'd taken with our problem, he'd done a great job, thanks a bunch. Bye. 


The techy guy responded,"Your words today, they have made me truly joyful." 


You know no American ever said that. It was great. 


We say that to one another at our house now. On very specially thankful occasions. Terry wrote it in a text to me today ...


Terry: On my way to see Puff. (the Dragon = radiation)


Me: Ok babe, praying, you can do it!


.....30 minutes....


Terry: Got 'er done. On my way back to work. 


Me: Wonderful! Now two days off. Just 10 more to go...almost single digits! 


Terry: Your words, they are making me truly joyful.


Ten more treatment days. Terry is just able to eat/drink soup and smoothies these days. A liquid diet is somewhat a relief - no worries about trying to find something that tastes good when nothing tastes good. Just some lukewarm broth and several calorie-packed smoothies per day and we're done.


Terry works his usual half day tomorrow and then goes to bed for the remainder of the weekend - rest and recovery so he can make it through another work week. He is amazing, none of the doctors can believe he is still able to work. He is strong and brave...and really, really tired. 


Thanks so much, friends. Your prayers and good wishes, your thoughtful gifts, kind words and great smoothie recipes all this interminable week have been so sweet, they've buoyed and encouraged us immensely.


Your words, they've made us truly joyful.



Friday, July 6, 2012

the countdown

July, though it just started, seems to stretch out beyond the summer horizon. There are some hot and heavy days ahead. 


Terry has 15 more days of actual treatment over the next three weeks. Weekends he gets off for recuperation. 


Radiation is:
Monday though Friday the 9th - 13th, 
                                   16th - 20th, and the 
                                   23rd - 27th...which is his birthday. 


The last chemo is on Monday the 23rd. The nausea and other side effects I've mentioned are worse the 5-6 days after chemo and then they seem to lessen. They don't go away, but they get better. 


Radiation, which I haven't said much about, is very, very difficult. It's 13 minutes each day when Terry is strapped on his back, unable to move, with a tongue-depressor-like thing as far down his throat as he can get it without gagging and a 'shield' as big as a deck of cards in his mouth. (You don't want to envision this for very long.) Every day it is a challenge to enter 'the dragon'.


The side effects from radiation - very sore throat, 'sunburned' skin on his neck and face, no ability to taste or smell, dry mouth, inability to swallow, enormous difficulty eating, digestive troubles, pain -  are cumulative....that means the possibility of all these side effects getting even worst over the next 15 days is great.


Pause. Deep breath. Whatever our present circumstances we know ...


God is good and faithful. We. Know. 


These are our specific requests so you can pray:



  • That Terry would know and experience the supernatural presence of the Lord each day - especially in the afternoons. (Radiation treatments are somewhere between 2:30 and 3:30PM.) 


  • That the courage and strength he cries out for each day would be real and abundant. It's Terry's intention to finish treatment well. (The actual statistics of those who finish this particular treatment are abysmal. Unfinished treatment means an almost certain recurrence rather than a cure. We're DONE with cancer.)


  • That every sacrificial moment of the chemo and radiation would be effective - that the growth and multiplication of cancer cells would be stopped and that every cancer cell would die.


  • That the side effects would not worsen, but instead - ease. 


  • That Terry's calorie intake each day would be stable and that weight loss would be minimal. (Avoiding a stomach/feeding tube.)


  • That Terry would be encouraged instead of discouraged as he looks at the calendar. Those 15 days seem like forever at this point. 

To address the first 5 with us - just keep Terry in your thoughts and prayers. It matters, we feel the love and strength. 


To address the last one - we are making him a calendar with encouragement, jokes, promises, scripture.... just courage - for each of these last 15 treatment days. 


Would you like to take a day - and send encouragement for Terry? Send me what you would want me to write on his calendar for a specific, or just any day - and I'll make sure those are the words he hears and sees. It'll be on the mirror, in his pocket on a note card, in his journal, on a sticky note inside the dragon's belly...and on his heart by the end of the day I am sure.


Last week friends sent Terry a John Wayne mug - when you tip it up to drink you are able to read, "Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway." He LOVES it, so don't feel like you've got to be serious!


Jokes, kind words, homemade soup, encouraging words, texts, emails. Prayers and scripture. A blanket made by strangers and sent from afar. A recording on our phone answering machine of the HITC staff singing. The Hargrave children praying for Mr. Terry from the other side of the planet. Our nieces and nephews, cousins, brothers and sisters, parents, friends old and new sending love, whacky advice, weird recipes, and even a wig - there's plenty we love about each day. 


All these things and many more help fill our hearts with good things even while they are so effectively emptied, daily, with the ugliness of cancer. 


Don't worry - we're planning on winning. Terry's life, my life, the life of our family will be a trophy, in the end, of the goodness of the Lord. 


Send something if it is on your heart. He'll be blessed. 


"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart; wait on the Lord." Ps 27 - now there's a good one, somebody send me that one. 








Tuesday, July 3, 2012

chemo - round 2



Chemo treatments - not for the fainthearted. 


Here is Terry during Monday's treatment. It was a marathon day...


Radiation first - except "the Dragon" is down for the count, a technician must be called, they send Terry to start chemo at the other hospital and tell us they'll call later to reschedule.


Chemo begins with a visit with the medical oncologist who... 
     asks about all the side effects of treatment, makes understanding noises and good suggestions 
     tells what to expect for the next few weeks 
     schedules a shot of some-thing-or-other to boost the expected loss of white blood cells, says it will hurt, cause joint pain, will be worth it 
     schedules another blood test
     pokes and prods and peers
     answers our questions 
     pats our hands, cheers us immensely with his kindness, makes sure we have his cell number


Down the hall to the 'lounge' for treatment and people watching...


- a blood draw through the port, a long wait for it to come back
     We visit with the nurses we know from last time. They remember Terry and tease him about his new look...Stanley Tucci's name is invoked and compared to Terry and they do the flirt thing nurses do to make you feel better. It makes him smile.  
     
     We meet a very young 20-something guy in treatment for the first day, his mom is with him, they are both wide-eyed and frightened. He went to get his tonsils out last week and instead got a lymphoma diagnosis, he has a tracheotomy and a very lost look.  He won't be going back to college this fall - with his Stage IV diagnosis he wonders if he ever will.  His mom and I talk about mothering sons and what is important.  Terry talks to him about treatment and choosing to plan for a future cancer-free. They get quiet, begin to just look at us and nod. Are we too 'forward' we wonder later in whispered conversations? They watch US all day and come to shake hands when they leave, the tall momma and the football-player size son, both looking so fragile. 


- a nurse finally starts a bag of saline dripping....the sticky window bandage causes a skin reaction within 15 minutes...the nurse rrrriiiipppps it off and tries tape instead...the tape is hard and uncomfortable and causes the same skin reaction....alarms go off, the drip is no longer dripping...that needle comes out and another goes in...this time stuck with a very expensive, breathable, comfortable bandage - the nurse writes in his chart that he gets this first the next time


- the saline takes about an hour and a half
  The grumpy WWII guy and his geisha-girl arrive, it's his last day of treatment - he's been coming since February. He is happy, but he doesn't have his teeth in today so his face is quite a contortion of what we're pretty sure are smiles. She settles him in for the day with a Tom Clancy novel and leaves for shopping, he never turns another page. He asks, "What are you in for?" to everyone nearby, listens for a moment and then tells his own story again and again. He occasionally falls asleep in mid-conversation...everyone is grateful for nap time and indulgent when he wakes up and begins where he left off. 

- two bags of anti-emetics are dripped in with more saline - they take about  half an hour each
   A breast cancer lady comes in with her husband, she is beautiful with her egg-shell-like skull exposed. She can barely walk.  He looks at his watch a lot and leaves, with just a nod, once her treatment begins. She's done this before, her smile is sad - her pink ribbon breast cancer bag is packed with what she needs, she closes out the room and reads a fat romance novel with a racy cover.
  
  
- the cisplatin arrives - we pray over it (kill the bad stuff, leave the good stuff alone) it takes about an hour and a half to drip in. Terry begins almost immediately to do the chameleon change of color, he turns brown like the chair, then grey like the walls. I am praying again...kill the bad stuff, not the good stuff. There is nothing very eloquent in me, just a little terror and some bigger trust which grows. 
  
   The Texas rancher guy arrives. Alone again, but not in a lot of pain today. He sits by Terry and they talk as his own potions begin to drip. His ranch is near Bastrop and was not touched by the fires last year - he had no way to save his many horses and goats should it have come just a few miles nearer, his ponds and the creek drought-dry. He also works as a farrier and was trained by the Amish a half a century ago. He talks about horses as if they are his only friends.  He is tired and sick and his sister wants him to return to their family ranch land near Fredricksburg to live near her. Theirs was one of the original German families to settle the area, they still speak German when they are together. His great grandfather and great uncles were Texas Rangers and remember the Comanche and Apache. His eyes are far away when he re-tells the stories he has heard all his life under stars, around camp fires.   


- another anti-emetic for about a half an hour
- another bag of saline for an hour and a half
  
   Terry's exhaustion sets in. We just sit and listen to the stories of the early days of the state we so love and feel we've been given a gift. Wrapped up in a wounded package. 


a phone call tells us "the Dragon" has been repaired, there's no reprieve. We wave goodbye to everyone who is still around and head back to the other hospital. 
  Darby has stayed after 5PM so Terry won't miss a day of treatment. So kind.  


Radiation Day 16 of 34 - done. 
Chemo Day 2 of 3 - done. 


Terry is so tired as he stumbles in at home and to bed, I hate to wake him for drugs and food. 


Side effect hit quickly and powerfully early Tuesday morning. Terry still went to work for a few hours. He still ate and drank, although it is very painful. He is still kind to everyone. He is brave. 


There's much grace at work in our lives. We are so thankful for your prayers, your messages of encouragement and love.


God is good and faithful.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

the somewhat expected comes unexpectedly





Several years ago when Terry was training for a bike race he, well, really got into training. I discovered this high level of commitment deep in the night, a very cool night. My feet were cold...I did what most wives do - slipped those cold feet over to Terry's side of the bed so he could warm them up. 



My mind is pretty much blank after that. But my family tells me there was some shrieking, some bumbling around in the dark, a lot of lights...and a lot of calming talk from a just startled-awake husband.


Terry had, for the hope of a little more speed - shaved his legs. Ew.


Just shy of three weeks into cancer treatment we've had another occasion to discuss hair. Or the lack of it. The somewhat expected loss of hair is happening, somewhat unexpectedly. We were so focused on other things we forgot - until last night when the loss began - that it was probably going to happen. 


Tonight we buzzed it off on comb #2 just to lessen the fall out. And then we went ahead and used comb #1. It's a shock to LOOK like a cancer patient when you've been healthy all your life. It's a very odd feeling to not look like yourself. It's strange to happen in 24 hours.  


But my hero has chosen to identify with those he battles alongside and those survivors whom he so admires and be proudly ... bald. 


This time I am going to remember. And cheer.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

appreciation





It's been a week full of battles expected and unexpected. Overwhelming appreciation for the beautiful, delicate strength of our physical bodies.
And much peace. Thank you for praying.


We've learned radiation done in the early afternoon instead of the morning better suits Terry's system. Pray about 2:45, Monday - Friday. It's a very challenging 13 minutes. He is so my hero for facing these moments with courage each day. 
Many of the side effects from last week are resolved - nausea under control most of the time. No more hiccoughs. The new side effects are sometimes difficult, sometimes funny. Every day is brand new in many ways.
Terry has been able to work, sometimes all day, sometimes just a few hours - but this is a prayer answered. 
A pharmaceutics company chose to give, without cost, a treatment to help maintain healthy mouth and gum tissue which our insurance refused to cover.
Our kids are wonderful.
Our new rescued kitty brings a lot of comic relief to our house.
Our friends are wonderful. And funny.    


We've become much more thankful for the body's ability to perform amazing feats - almost without notice or appreciation.


Take a moment. Your body is marvelous.


*you smell and taste something good - your teeth and tongue, salivary glands and throat muscles do what they were made to do and you've enjoyed food and given your body fuel - you can do what you've been called to do, what you want to do, what you need to do - be thankful, very thankful


*breathe deeply, put your hand on your heart - life-giving oxygen is being carried to each cell  - you can walk and drive, talk and work, remember and love - be thankful, very thankful


*listen to the sounds around you - your auditory system just gathered and sent to your brain and decoded a thousand bits of information - you can respond to the voices, the music, the birdsong - be thankful, very thankful




These are just a few of the marvelous systems of the body which, when they don't perform as they are designed, can cause such a sense of loss. We are learning that the battle has costs, both temporary and long-reaching - costs to both body and soul. 


Our eyes are firmly fixed on the One who has fearfully and wonderfully made Terry's body. Our every expectation is for cancer cells to be vanquished, for Terry's body to be fully healed and restored. There are moments of joy each day.


God is good and faithful.






Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nobody here is pregnant.





I had an odd moment in the grocery today. I was purchasing some things Terry thought he might be able to eat when the check-out kid said, "Somebody at your house pregnant?"


The answer is no. Sadly, no. Just cancer.


Tuesday morning after Monday chemo Terry immediately began battling side effects - nausea, hiccoughs, loss of appetite and energy being the most pressing. These weren't surprises, just a smallish shock at how immediate and difficult they were to surmount when theyallcametogether. 


As the days have passed this week grace has been apparent, Terry has gotten better at anticipating and combating each side effect and most of them are lessening.  He is brave. He has made it each day to radiation and the 13 minutes of high-stress there, no matter how yucky he feels. He has also had the practical help of two friends. 


A little over two years ago Terry left a large optical company for whom he had worked for 23 years - he left in good standing, with a great record and many, many employees who were sad to see him leave. The company didn't bother to have any sort of 'thanks for your service' good-bye for him. It made me kind of sad and mad at the same time. Their loss, I figure. 

He left because a friend in the business, Dr. Catherine Kennedy, had opened her own practice called Arboretum Vision Care. She and another friend who was her office manager, Will Kunde, invited Terry to come work with them. They, and several other employees make a great team. I haven't really known the daily office life Terry lives but I got a good look this week. These two extraordinary people are making life with cancer treatment do-able. 



Dr. Kennedy is an outstanding doctor, she is peaceful, passionate and gifted. She often tells me something new she's learned and when she examines my eyes I know I am getting great care. We also talk about her young son and education and topics which interest us both. But the things a casual observer wouldn't see is what makes Dr. K. truly extraordinary. Kate, her daughter, comes to work too, on many days. Just so this special one can spend some moments of the busy days with her mommy. Kate has her own room in the office where she hangs out with her nurse. The sweetness of who Kate is makes a difference in the workplace. Needless to say, Dr. K. understands when someone doesn't feel well, she gets it that each life is important and precious. She treats her patients like that, she treats everyone like that - because that is who she is. As an employer and a friend Terry couldn't have a better advocate in these days when he is as dedicated as always, but not so much employee of the month material. 


Will, now Will is ... hunky. He's tall and good looking and he dresses cool. Some mornings all I have to say to Terry's clothing choice is, "Would Will wear that?" and he heads back to the closet. I love him for that. Will's children are his beautiful dogs - and I also love him for that. But what Will is really doing in these days is giving of himself sacrificially so that Terry can keep working at a somewhat normal schedule. Will is offering to change his own schedule at any moment, to be really flexible, to forego a regular day off, cancelling gym dates and visits to an elderly family member - for Terry. He's doing it with joy, because that is the kind of guy he is. His care for my husband makes me love him - more.


Everyone is so kind. Sending e-notes and FB messages of encouragement from all over the world. I read each one and copy them into a document for Terry.  They mean the world to us and they, like the gifts of time and love from Will and Dr. Kennedy, are helping to sustain us each day. 


Thank you. 








Tuesday, June 12, 2012

...and so we begin




Yesterday we spent all day getting Terry's first radiation and chemo treatments. It was surreal. 

Anyone getting radiation treatment at North Austin Medical Center gets a code to enter a special parking lot near the side door of the clinic. You enter, sign in with the friendly ladies at the desk and wait your turn. Darby comes to fetch you for treatment. He reminds me of someone. Someone kind and gentle. You get your mask and your mouthpiece from your own hook on the wall - all sterilized and ready. Darby straps you in and you're zapped for 13 minutes. Terry endured, I paced and prayed in the waiting room.

He came out with very round eyes, but pleased to have it over. Day one of 35. Done. 

We trekked about three miles over to Seton NW for chemo. We sat for a few minutes with the medical oncologist who acted like we were the only ones he wanted to talk to that morning. Treasures in heaven for that man.

Then down the hall to the "chemo lounge" full of lazy boy chairs and IV poles...and sick people. The sweetest nurses took blood - from the port, thank goodness - and sent it across the hall to the lab where the pharmacist mixed Terry's special poison up. He got bags of fluid and anti-nausea meds for several hours.

Hippa laws seemed to be suspended because everything for everybody got asked and told out loud before the entire room. I know way more than I want to know about several different kinds of cancer. But I am also somewhat in awe. 

We people-watched.

*A WWII vet whose wife was Asian, he called her 'Geisha-girl' -  she went shopping and he had treatment alone. Terry discovered the name of the ship on which he had served. He hunted on my ipad, drew, then painted the ship's insignia with the small watercolor set he always carries. The grumpy sick guy had no words when Terry gave it to him. He just handed Terry his uneaten snack in a scrunched paper lunch bag - orange peanut butter crackers. 

*A woman whose cancer had reoccurred for the third time brought her husband and son with her to treatment. The two guys played loud on-line war games on their laptops while she gave marital advice on her cell phone. All afternoon. 

*Ms. Clark and I decided we were probably related, which would be some generations back since we are quite obviously from different ethnic groups. We held hands and became friends and prayed together while her chemo dripped and her gangsta guy snoozed. 

*A very large and alone man with Texas rancher jeans and boots tried to smile and chat with us while the nurse did something painful to the pump in his side.

*A beautiful young woman worked on her laptop and made business calls all during her treatment, she only spoke or looked up when the kind doctor came to check on her - he touched her hair which was falling out in untidy clumps. 

*The son and husband of a very sick, sad breast cancer woman kept taking turns sitting with her and patting her hand and going out to the parking lot for cigarettes.

*An elderly man watched his wife sleep through her treatment, he covered her with a crazy colored crocheted blanket from a paper grocery bag he brought with them. He tried to read. He was really just interested in watching her sleep.

Finally Terry's cisplatin came from the pharmacy in a small, unassuming clear plastic bag. I was prepared to hate cisplatin - the toxic stuff about to enter the body of the one I love. But then I learned the miracle. Cisplatin is a platinum  (heavy metal) compound. It works by preventing the production of DNA by the cell.  It does this by forming links with the cancer cell DNA, binding them together and preventing them from reproducing. It is cleverly designed to enter those armored cancer cells and destroy their capability of growth and harm. I love cisplatin.

Today Terry is weary and a funny color and dealing with odd symptoms like hiccoughs. And not fun ones like nausea. 

But we are killing cancer cells. Our prayers and your prayers. Radiation. And cisplatin. 

God is good and faithful.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

camp-ishness




I wrote this blog post last year when I returned home from Kids Camp. Somehow I must have never punched 'publish' because here it sits. I didn't go to camp this year - I am staying close to home these days. But camp happened anyway because so many amazing people stepped in and up to love and lead....so this blog post is a tribute to them. 


I appreciate you all so much - Song Han, Emily Devereaux, Rob, Carson and Jennifer Woodring, Brian Cotsworth, Russell Blackstone, Mark Wolf, Roger Edgar, Crystal Ecton, Lori Newell, Suzanne Van Hoorn and the amazing 9-year veteran leaders Clark and Natalie Zaunbrecher and their team of musicians - Mike Cook, Ben Cook, Shaun McCormick, with Jamie McCormick and Susie Brooks as creative and practical inspiration and Z boy fun. 


Kids Camp - Summer of 2011


I went to camp last week. 
With about 250 little kids. About 70 adults and some babies. 
I pretty much love camp - so much that I do this every year with two friends and their church kids and mine. We sing and play and do skits and crafts and swim. We eat camp food and wear camp t-shirts and do camp cheers. We get really hot and exhausted and usually a few people throw up. 
We figure out how to get along when we are hot and tired and not in our own beds at night. Sometimes the toothbrushes don't ever get used. We loose our socks and towels and end up with friends hairbrushes and underwear when we get home. We compromise on who gets the top bunk and sometimes everybody ends up in the top bunk. Somebody tells us Bible stories and life stories, we think and we pray and we are inspired to love well and we are loved well.
Misfits fit, sad people start to smile, people who wouldn't ordinarily hold hands, do.

I am always the oldest person at camp. But I think I learn the most. Here are some things I've put to memory....


- an amazing amount of freedom is discovered when you just choose to say 'yes' more than you say 'no'
- it's best to be flexible all the time
- it doesn't really matter which 8 year old wears which bathing suit top as long as everyone has one on
- bacon bits and banana pudding can be a whole meal for some people
- small children are sometimes very wise
- small children are sometimes unfathomable 
- if you listen closely at prayer time you do, without a doubt, hear the heart of God
- parents are amazing
- one good dancer can bring more joy to a room than free ice cream
- short sentences are best
- adult campers experience a refreshing child-like-ness 
- often people who don't appear to be listening are listening
- take the elevator, the golf cart and an extra water bottle whenever you can
- there's more freedom in saying it, doing it, being it when you get home than before you left for camp...just because you've been to camp