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


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


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 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

Saturday, June 9, 2012

...what comes after the tattoo

Who knew that the the boy who grew up wearing cowboy hats and who wears occasional baseball caps now needs this hat? It's an African Nudu - $425.00 on eBay. I don't think I can afford it. Etsy has crocheted ones that look pretty good for $125.00 - closer to my budget. His birthday will be in the middle of treatment....I'm thinking I've got my gift picked out. 

It's not quite time to buy hats but we are very pleased to say that it is now finally time to start killing cancer cells. After another week of extra medical tests and procedures, it is really time to get the party started. 

We've stocked up on things for Terry to eat and drink, we've got all sorts of drugs and ice packs,  supplements and soup and funny home remedies people have given us. Terry is in fighting form -  having eaten ice cream and all sorts of things he doesn't usually indulge in to gain the doctor- prescribed extra pounds. We think we are ready. 

That, of course, is the royal 'WE' for despite all that one flesh talk and 29.5 years of marriage it is actually Terry who will be doing the physical fighting...and me who just wishes I could do it with him. He is amazing, he is ready, he will win. Pray with us for healing, for ease of treatment, and that we would love one another well.  Your prayers are truly our strength.  

Monday morning at 9:00AM will be Terry's first radiation treatment at a hospital about 2 miles from our house. By 9:45AM we'll be at another hospital a few miles the other direction for his first chemo treatment. We'll be in the hospital until late afternoon. 

God is good and faithful.