Let the treatment begin…

We have officially begun round 2 of treatment. As mentioned previously, it’s all geared toward starving the cancer of hormones so that it can’t grow. We learned after my chemo treatment (spring and summer of 2012) that chemo wasn’t very effective. As the Houston Dr Osborne summarized it, ‘you have chemo resistant tumors…’ And, in our last conversation with our Dr. Osborne (Dallas Dr. O) she told us that the recurrence from the liver biopsy showed a very accelerated growth rate of 40% (>20% considered high so they really don’t like this number that is 2x higher than ‘high’). This also means that the anti-hormone therapy we have been doing wasn’t very effective at starving it. So, in the trial, we are now combining 3 meds that, Lord willing, block the cancer cells’ access to estrogen by inhibiting 3 different pathways. Using Dallas highway terms, we are putting back up a blockade on northbound 75 (similar drug that I was using previously) but also trying to block routes via Hillcrest and Greenville too. The estrogen snuck around our previous roadblock. As our doctor explained it, after any traffic block some cars will cut through the grass to service road and, over time, many will do the same. It seems as if the estrogen fought through our previous blockade to go around the roadblock and eventually feed the cancer. This is an impressive and unfortunate feat considering we have taken out my ovaries and gone to great lengths to starve it.

We started at 8:30 with bloodwork and saw my oncologist then transferred to the research area where we have a little private area for them to monitor my heart (EKGs throughout the day) plus half a dozen blood draws (I am glad to have my port again!). Then Cynthia brought Lincoln up. From his standpoint, this round seems is very different than my first diagnosis (he was 8 months old) so we are trying to include him and acclimate him to the doctor’s office and our new reality. He came and saw us in our little treatment/monitoring area and we also took him up to see Dr. Osborne who asked us to bring him because she had a treat for him. It was pretty cute – he walked around the nurses station and directly past all the exam rooms and the other doctor’s offices and went right into her office. It was less cute when he walked in and said ‘can I have my treat?’ 😁 At least he had a huge lovable smile on his face when he rudely greeted her by asking for a treat! Cringe.

When I was in the hospital, Scott and I met with a child life specialist following our doctor’s recommendation that we engage the hospital’s resources to help us prepare Lincoln. She explained some helpful things about how kids process serious illnesses. Since we are here all day, we wanted to introduce Lincoln to her and try to establish a relationship between them. She read a book to him about cancer and gave him a ‘mommy doll’ of a cancer patient. He was pretty cute with the book and answered her questions pretty well – seems to understand I am ‘big sick’ (not to be confused with ‘little sick’ like a cough or cold or tummy ache that he would get) and he knew that I have cancer and it wasn’t contagious. In contrast, things didn’t go so well with the mommy doll because ‘my mommy doesn’t have lellow hair.’ He was quite hung up on the hair color and pretty much disassociated with the doll because of her ‘lellow’ hair. Thankfully, unlike the doll, the conversation ‘took root’. The book was about flowers and weeds – cancer is like the weeds that harm the flowers so sometimes we have to kill the weeds with medicines that also hurt the flowers. Later he pretended to plant some weeds and flowers for Cynthia. Cute.

We are prayerful and hopeful about these medicines. My back pain (lower than the broken rib) has persisted and been quite painful. As such, sleep is hard and it’s hard to carry Lincoln or exercise or be on my feet very long. We will have another scan in 2 months to see how the meds are working – Lord willing, it will stop the growth or, in some cases, shrink the tumors. Over these last 2 weeks off of any medicines and with increased pain, it made Scott and I anxious about its growth and really hopeful that the pain doesn’t continue to escalate. We have had a really sweet Christmas. But it was also sobering and, at times, sad as well. The realities of what we are up against become more and more clear as we have time to think through the implications of a lengthy battle or, if God allows, death. I am increasingly convinced that God hates cancer but loves us. Thankfully, I have never doubted either of those. And we are praying the same for Lincoln.

I’ve attached some pics from our 8 hours at Baylor so far – with 2 more hours to go! As I attach the pictures, the man next to us has started yacking … Nice.

One more ENCOURAGING update…
As I was finishing with these pictures, our clinical trial nurse, Nancy (pictured below holding 2 of my 6 bottles of meds … ) came in to review the drug study protocols with me. Then, as she wrapped up, she exclaimed ‘I am so excited to have someone on this trial!’ She went on to explain that there is so much excitement about putting these 3 drugs together and the few spots that have become available (worldwide) have typically filled up within the first :35 minutes of being announced so it’s been discouraging because near impossible for patients to access the study. And I am the only one in Dallas. She tried to get one other patient on the study but there’s a long list of inclusions and exclusions and they didn’t meet the criteria. Hearing her excitement about the drugs and the rarity of an available slot was very encouraging (He is our provision …). In the past, when she knew of a possible candidate and had called they would offer a study that included 2 of the 3 drugs but never all 3. The Lord has made a way for me to get a slot for all 3 drugs with a very promising potential for treating metastatic breast cancer. In other words, “This is what the Lord says to his chosen one …’I will go before you and level mountains. Bronze doors I will shatter and iron bars I will hack through. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stashed away in secret places, so you may recognize that I am the Lord … “(Isaiah 45:2-3). Yes, Lord, you have. And we thank you.

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Goodnight. Sleep Tight. Sing Along.

Last night Scott and I were both tossing and turning (not uncommon for me since cancer came with insomnia after all the treatment) but not normal for Scott and we weren’t nervous/anxious. He suggested listening to a short sermon and I was reminded of this song/video Id heard before but it has taken on new depths and richness in recent weeks (another gift of cancer is eyes and heart and ears that see and feel and hear anew!). We listened to this on repeat until we fell asleep. And found ourselves talking about it through tears today as we waited for the doctor. Sweet sweet reminders of truth and love for us from the story of Job and gifted songwriters (Shane and Shane) and another faithful pastor (John Piper). I pray it blesses your heart as it blessed ours last night. And it will bless mine again as soon as I finish sharing with YALL and hit play again. Here’s the link: http://youtu.be/qyUPz6_TciY.

Goodnight. And Sleep tight with these great truths of His love sung over you too!

Check. Check. Check. And heart check.

Lab work. Check.
EKG. Check.
Echocardiogram. Check.

2 more things tomorrow:
1. Surgical implantation of my port at 10:30. We aren’t planning for chemo but bone strengthener meds are intravenous and lots of bloodwork and my poor veins are struggling. We can only use my left arm (after lymph nodes removed on right side all blood work and BP type stuff done in left) and different nurses have struggled to get a good stick lately so my doctor and I agreed that a port would be helpful.
2. Eye exam. Something about these drugs has some side effects with eyes so they require an eye exam.

My EKG was normal and the nurse didn’t indicate any problem with my echocardiogram so, hopefully, after tomorrow we will have another ‘check, check’ and all will be clear to start the trial on Monday. The medicines are all oral but require lots of monitoring so, on the first day, and weekly thereafter, we will have several hours of blood draws on Mondays to monitor effects.

I am ready to get started. Maybe it’s just in my head, since I now know this back pain isn’t just carrying a 3 year old, but it seems to hurt more and more – not in the spot where the rib was broken but in my lower back. I am hopeful for the bone strengthener to be helpful as well as the new medicine.

Apart from Echo and EKG, in other heart news, we continue to be supernaturally encouraged, strengthened and at peace! Scriptures from friends and words of encouragement, like Jeff’s that I shared last week, have help set our mind on things above (Col 3:1-2). Along those lines, Scott and I read and re-read these loving and endearing words from our pastor on Saturday. He asked to share our story in the service on Sunday after a sweet visit with us in the hospital last week. I pray this encourages your heart as it did ours.

+~+~+~

Scott and Jennifer..praying for you often and thankful for your readiness for this hour.

Only a fool would choose to enlist in the way you have been called to serve, and only a fool would reject the way God, in His perfection, has prepared for us.

This is not a part anyone would audition for AND it is not a part the divine one would give to “actors”…this is a part only the faithful and ready are given. I am not sure yet where this story goes but I am sure Who has written the screen play and I am sure He is good, He can be trusted and that He makes no mistakes. I am sure it will bring glory to Him and goodness to countless eternities, even if it hastens the beginning of yours. I am sure we won’t always see the perfection of His plan on this side but I am sure it is perfect. I am sure that “As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given…” and I am sure there will be a day when an angel or God Himself will show us what He was doing…and it will be beautiful. (Daniel 9:23).

The Father does not always show us on earth what He is doing in heaven but we are wise to always pray what heaven wants done will be done on earth…even when we can’t recognize it as His doing.

I am sure eternity will be filled with praises for our King, both for the way He answered and the way He did not. We will laugh at the countless times he heard us cry when we imagined that He didn’t and we will fall at His feet and praise Him for the times He said “no” to our prayers when we see that His saying yes would have harmed us and robbed us of good.

If we believe in God’s sovereignty AND goodness, we can be certain that part of heaven will be our ability to continually see clearly, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Cor 13:12). As Alcorn has said, God will be glorified “through our better understanding of human history. We’ll no longer have to cling by faith that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Romans8:28, NASB). We will see history as definitive documentation of that reality.”

O Lord hasten the day when our faith will be as sight, and meanwhile thank you that you have come, you have come, Emmanuel.

Love you both and grateful to be your brother in faith, your intercessor in prayer, your friend on the journey and your fellow servant in the war.

A small part of the victory will be seen tomorrow…but every day is a win when we are nearer still to Him.

James 1:2-4 indeed,
Todd

H is for Happy. And Houston. And Hotel.

Can’t wait to share the good news from Houston … Major support from Houston’s super renowned and knowledgeable (not to mention kind and instructive and helpful…) Dr. Osborne for the clinical trial we have a spot in. We are so thankful! The trial we can do isnt even available out of his hospital so it’s a blessing that our own Dr. Osborne and her team member, Dr. O’Shaughnessy, are part of the research team in Dallas. It’s super complicated and way too hard for this Aggie or Red Raider to explain but in laymans terms I will get access to 3 drugs simultaneously that, Lord willing, will block my cells’ access to their beloved estrogen. He confirmed what she said about the aggressive and crafty nature of my cells who are able to grow and multiply even though we’ve removed their access to estrogen (with hysterectomy and medicine). And, another bonus of the trial is that I get more frequent scans than insurance would normally cover. Blessings blessings blessings. In Scotts simple words, ‘it couldn’t have gone better.’ And have I mentioned I love my Dr. Osborne in Dallas?! I texted her with an update and she texts me back asking me to come in today to sign consent paperwork and do necessary pre-trial clinical work on Monday (EKG, eye exam, bloodwork…) so she can get me started on the meds, Lord willing, as early as next week. And these aren’t meds that are readily available nor ever been approved to be used together so this is a HUGE BLESSING! And the Houston Dr. Osborne said he thinks there’s a 50-60% chance of a positive response – a positive response would mean cancer stops growing even if doesn’t shrink the tumors. We feel very thankful and HOPEful today. And even have confirmation about next steps if these don’t work – his ideas the same drugs that our own doctor had mentioned. And, as both have said, if/as the Lord sustains my life on these meds that gives more opportunities for more advances in medicine that could be available to us. Have we mentioned we are thankful?!

Sweet and precious moment for me to watch Scott shake Dr. Osbornes hand and thank him. Then, he got teary eyed as he said, “and we are thankful for you and other doctors who have devoted their life to medicine and school and this career which provides hope and life for my wife and our family. I don’t know if you hear that enough so I just want to thank you.” Such words have never been so true. And same goes to you Jen and Trevor and Jenny and Bethany and Trey and Chris and Kamilia and Jeff and Cindy. I just called my surgeon and oncologist by their first names as I consider them among my other friends … I am wild and crazy and living on the potentially-disrespectful edge! We feel so humbled and honored to participate in this study because, Lord willing, we can help women and families in the future. As I prayed w my PNG (pink not grey cancer sorority sisters) yesterday we all choked up knowing that many have died before us while doctors and others sought the treatment plans we have available now.

On a much lighter note, let me warn you not to mess with my Mel by messing with her friend, Jen. Mel and Gulley and I met as Diamond Darlings at A&M (for you non Aggies don’t trouble yourself with trying to figure that out) and while Mel is all popular and extroverted online (aka Big Mama) she is in reality a woman who chooses friends carefully and slowly (not sure how she chose me because though much in common there are many differences!) and likes to keep those she loves near and dear. She is much more of an introvert than her compadres of Gulley or me. But let me tell you – she is one LOYAL friend. And, if by chance, you are one of those near and dear friends and you need anything (like roof over your head for trip to Houston) she is on it. Before I asked or mentioned hotel to anyone (have I mentioned the Lord’s provisions for us?!) she had offered her dad’s second home in Houston and was gonna overnight the keys since he’s not there (because a lot of people from San Antonio have a vacation home in Houston, right?!). I’ve been a guest of her Mimi and Bops on more than one occasion through the years so knew the Villa Marino would be just perfect and restful and fun. Unless of course the keys don’t arrive as promised by 10:30 before we leave town. And Mel didn’t want to just get her tracking number and look it up online but took her not-so-happy hiney back to the mail store to inquire about her precious package. And she may or not have, as Gulley described it, ‘gone postal’ and let them know through many tears that you can lose her Christmas package but don’t you know better than to lose the keys for her friend Jen who has CANCER!?!? In college, when my dad was real sick, Mel one time used my dad’s story (as if it was her own dad) to get out of a speeding ticket. While I had done the. same thing with same story (except it really was my dad!) and I still got the ticket! She’s smooth like that. I had the temptation to call the store and warn them to find the package or she would make them pay. And they paid alright. For my hotel room with the heavenly bed across the street from my doctor’s appointment. And let me assure you that was a small price to pay compared to would have happened if she unleashed her thousands upon thousands of Big Mama faithfuls on to the company that wears brown and shall remain nameless. As I wrote to Mel and Gulley and Bops earlier today…
“Dear Unnamed Postal Service, we thank you for our heavenly bed and convenient access to our doctor. We are glad you took the fair warnings from the crazy lady in Alamo Heights who, may or may not have told you, is big time and could have ruined you. There could have been a national moms boycott of your services. The cost of this hotel was nothing compared to the price you’d have paid. We thank you. And whether or not you know it you should be very thankful that you listened to crying crazy lady in the store. Thanks for making things right and thanks for the big hug and support you gave that crazy lady who loves me so much she would cry at the threat of me not having everything I need.”

We have happy hearts and big thanks to doctors and all the friends and family that make sure we have ‘everything we need’ from Christmas presents to personal shopping to a decorated house to meals to slumber parties for Linc while we are away to offers for nanny or housekeeper to the ministry of presence after hard news to place to stay and even unexpected check to help with insurance and deductible costs! And, in between all of that, countless texts and emails and messages of encouragement on blog. And, the sweetest of all, prayers and pleadings to our heavenly Daddy who has promised ‘to supply all of our needs according to the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus.’

– Sent from I45 north during crazy rain with excitement to get home and, once again, surrounded by those we love and who love us so well!

Ps Pic is of me checking in to doctor and offering insurance card for zillionth time. And because we love Scotts Aunt Sue (Smith who is also battling stage 4 breast cancer) we loved that the name of the generous donors are Lester and SUE SMITH. We love you Aunt Sue and are fighting and praying right alongside you.

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Sweet Suffering?

Don’t intend to spam with blog posts but I was so blessed by a friend that I wanted to share.

Backstory: friend by friend, my mom and Cynthia (who had Linc during appt) and Scott were joined by friends who came and hugged and laughed and loved and prayed and laughed some more. As in life, joy mixed with sorrow and blessings amidst heartache. Someone asked how Scott was doing and he shared that he is realizing he is going to have to have faith that he’s never had to have before – faith that heaven is real as God promised, faith that the Lord will take care of me as He promised, faith that the Lord will protect Linc as He promises…

Scott then talked about James 1:2-4:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

… And how we don’t understand but have to believe and expect the Lord to connect the dots between joy and suffering for His glory and our good.

So, as a (long) backstory, those are the questions and conversation we had with friends and this is the text I woke up to (written at 4:57am) from my kind and faithful and humble friend, Jeff Ward:

Jennifer – hope this text doesn’t make a noise and wake you guys up 🙂 but I’ve been up praying for you all and wanted to send this before I left. Ironic that I’m speaking to Porch leaders this morning about “time management.” Just read your latest blog post (maybe I’ll just read your blog post to them and sit down) and hurts my heart for you guys. I’ve thought often about what I would say standing before the furnace. I’ve also meditated on James 1:2-4 a bunch this year and stood in a sweaty room while my Iranian friends told me story after story of what “coming to Christ” has meant for them – jail, loss of family, loss of jobs, death threats and yet their joy in the Lord unmistakeable. They really have an “anti-prosperity” gospel. In fact one man grabbed my arm when I asked if he was leaving to go somewhere “safe” (dumb question) and said “Brother Jeff, I believe in two blessings – the blessing of salvation and the blessing of suffering.” The more I’ve thought about that the more I see that in my bible. I don’t like it. In fact I really hate it. I hate cancer. I hate what it does and what it represents. But I know that somehow God uses it to James 1 us…to make us whole and complete, spiritually mature. So hard to connect the dots… Just know that you are greatly loved by the Wards and countless others who will continue to lift your family up as you stand before the furnace. God is able to deliver. He’s able to give joy even in the midst of that. He is good. He loves you. He loves your family. He has, is, and will redeem the pain…trusting the guy who said “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world!”

And, because I am in this season where I deeply desire to know and trust Him more I can’t resist urge to point out that Scott used the exact same phrase ‘connect the dots’ and the same Scripture reference from James 1 and God is more than able to provide answers to our questions through His children (He is our Provision). He also woke my second mom (some would say stepmom but she’s far too dear and close so I prefer to explain that I was gifted with a second mom who loves me and our family, including my first mom, very much) with an offer to help with my grandmother (dad’s mom who is 95 and Thursday is Lincoln and my day with her) but she is already taken care of because He woke our friend Hite even earlier and he had already called my grandmother and arranged to take her to doctor. He’s provided. And as we left doctor yesterday our ‘next steps’ related to a bunch of tests and bloodwork that need to be done on Monday or Tuesday before I can start on the trial (pending confirmation in Houston) … And as I looked at my phone after doctor, my friend Amy had written: ‘Lewis, can the kids and I help with Lincoln on Monday or Tuesday?’ More provision.

I expect, if you choose to walk this road with us on the blog and in life, you will get a wide range of realities and emotions and joy and sorrow and laughter. Today, on the heels of last night, I wanted to share our journey related to suffering and faith and how the Lord can (and will) ‘connect the dots’ … And use friends like last night and Jeff’s text to help us. I suspect that when we ‘connect the dots’ it will be straight line pointing us to JESUS and the heart of the Father and His love for us. And you.

Hard. And Getting Harder.

Thought I would just share the text I sent few friends after today’s appointment:

Hard just got harder. That appointment was tougher than I expected. For both of us but especially Scott. Dr O maintains a real encouraged spirit about the trials I have access to but reality isn’t good … the cancer is in my lower back, ribs, pelvis plus lungs and pleura of lungs, lymph nodes in chest and lymph nodes near stomach, and one biggish lump in liver plus 2-3 smaller spots on liver. We will move forward w targeted hormone therapies and keep trying different stuff until we see evidence that tumors aren’t growing (in some cases they shrink but that’s rare). Our hope is in JESUS for healing as well as sustaining. Reminded of Daniel 3 where the guys say (my paraphrase) ‘… Our God is able to deliver us [from cancer] but whether He does or doesn’t, we will serve Him anyways…’ We are in shock. Not sure it changes what we knew but just reality sinking in. She said average life expectancy for women w metastatic breast cancer is 2.5 years. Scott prayed (with whole room) and reminded us all that our God isn’t limited to statistics or odds – we KNOW that. But she also encouraged us to ‘do anything that you would want to do…’ (aka bucket list)…

Our Provision…

This word/phrase has come up several times this week and I know it’s the Lord’s ‘provision’ (… see?!) to remind us that He has had us in His hand up to this point and He will continue and that He provides everything we need…

+ He provided a decorated house for Christmas before the idea of decorating even crossed my mind.
+He provided a doctors appointment for next week – I reached out to request an appointment for next week as a follow up to second opinion and the nurse told me it was already scheduled for Monday. Because of a fun family trip to VA with friends I had rescheduled my 11.22 appt for 12.22 but totally forgotten. He provided the appointment I needed over 6 weeks in advance.
+He provided a message and offer to help from the adored doctor we met at MD Anderson before I even considered reaching out.
+He provided an appointment with renowned breast cancer doctor in Houston for my first choice of days (this Friday, 12.19) before I even asked or mentioned my preference (or even knew if I would get an appointment at all much less for the one day I had in mind in his schedule which, I am guessing, may not have another opening for weeks).
+He provided friends who came over today and asked if their company could financially provide for a nanny and/or housekeeper in upcoming months. Yes, you read that right.
+He provided a friend to wrap Christmas presents and friends to bring meals and friends to run errands and friends to bring coffee and sessies and to send flowers for encouragement.
+He has provided DAILY for Lincolns childcare needs – and often after not stating the need to anyone but the Lord Himself and then HE prompts His children to reach out and offer just what we need.
+He has provided our ability to afford expensive but very good health insurance (poor Blue Cross Blue Shield with me as their insured …)
+He has provided me with a mom who has offered come over every day, both before and after work, to help with any needs we have (she’s like this wonderful little fairy that makes everything look good and clean before we go to bed or before we start our day).
+He provides laughter for the journey … This week I put Lincoln down and started to pray but he rather rudely interrupted and asked me to pray for ME instead of him. I asked what I should pray for and he said, “Pray for your back and your bref …” My bref?! I replied and said, “what’s my bref? Do I have bad breath?! … Or do you mean breast?” And he said, “yeah pray for your breasts and the lions and the elephants and my lamp.” For reals?! I drew the line and told him I wouldn’t pray for the lamp but we got my back and breasts covered in prayer!
+He has provided answers to your prayers and healing. My back pain has been totally manageable with ibuprofen since Saturday – just one week after morphine and Hydrocodone were entirely insufficient for pain management.
+He has provided incredible HOPE in the midst of hard news. We don’t feel depressed or in despair … and that could only be the Lord! I have loved getting the diagnosis at this time of year because, consistent with our church’s sermon on Sunday, I am continually reminded, at Christmas, that He truly provided ALL I NEED in the birth and life and death of Jesus. In addition, He has reminded me that He is no stranger to the imminence of death and a shorter life (I am getting much more than 33 years) and a Father who grieved for His son like we grieve for ours. We have HOPE. And we aren’t Home (yet). God is good. And He provides. Always. And often even before we know the need ourselves.

We see our beloved Dr. Osborne tomorrow and will learn more about the results of the scans and liver biopsy and be discussing treatment plans – including the clinical trial she has in mind. We would love prayers for wisdom for her and for God to providentially point us to the best medicines for my body and to have His way in us. We will let you know what we learn.

Also, we will leave at some point Thursday to meet with Kent Osbourne in Houston at Baylor University Medical Center (not affiliated with our Baylor). He is the doctor who hosted and leads the breast cancer symposium that my doctor attended last week. And he knows a lot about various trials and which could be the best trial and/or treatment for me so I am thankful to have him on our team with our Dr. Osborne (yes, very confusing but they aren’t related and spell names slightly differently).

Thanks for the ways you have loved and prayed and supported us already. He has provided richly and abundantly through all of you.

Home Sweet (Decorated) Home

There’s no place like it. Home.
And there’s no greater surprise than to walk into a fully decorated home! We were greeted by a wreath on house, the fragrant smell of a fresh tree beautifully decorated, and perfectly placed poinsettias all over our house. Wow. Not only are our friends amazing but they are creative in how they love. I have never ever ever had such a crazy fun idea for someone else! We are loving it.

And one of the heavily debated topics in our married life has been ‘fresh or fake.’ I tend toward easy/lazy/cheaper (which makes fake all the more appealing and what I grew up with) and Scott loves all things outdoors so is offended by even the suggestion of a fake tree. I also tend to be on the more conservative side of things financially so while he peruses the tree lot for the perfect tree I tend to follow and try to inconspicuously turn over price tags and wince with each one. Scott selects on smell and beauty and shape – not price! And, he’s quite picky about all of the above so it was super sweet to hear him immediately say ‘babe, that’s exactly what I would have picked!’ It’s gorgeous. And smells like Christmas. And it didn’t even have a price tag. It even had wrapped presents under the tree! And, when Jenn brought Linc home from Chapel School (our little mom taught preschool on Wednesday mornings), he was super excited to show me his new ornament he had made … And I was super excited that he had a tree to put it on!

It was good to get settled at home with my mom and B’s help which was really helpful. It’s hard to lay down and rest when I see chores all around me so they significantly lightened my load though Scott complained that I was still doing too much and kept using his Indian accent to imitate our PRECIOUS Indian nurse who told me over and over ‘you must rest.’ And rest I did. With a precious cuddly lovable little boy. Aaaah.

Linc woke up and did his normal routine of running into our room and cuddling (and begging his sleepy head parents to get some vanilla milk) and it was good to be in our bed with our boy in our sweetly decorated home. Scott and Linc played some pretend fishing game that involved a made up song called ‘Hippo Head’ while I rested and intermittently whispered to Scott that he’s a great dad. He always has been but his sense of purpose and clarity and focus is an insane blessing to both Lincoln and me.

During our cuddle time, Linc sweetly asked if he could lay on top of me and if I needed a bandaid for my boo boo. It seemed like maybe we should have a natural conversation about me being ‘big sick’ so I asked if he wanted to talk about it. When he responded with nonsensical baby talk we decided not. A few minutes later I decided to try again and said, ‘Lincoln, we want to talk about Mama. We want you to know that I am sick but….’ And were immediately and loudly interrupted with ‘Mama said butt!’ over and over followed by ‘can you say butt again?!’ I am still laughing as I type. I think it’s safe to say he had heard all he wanted to hear?

We also have some encouraging information about a an international clinical trial that has an opening. I really loved participating in research. I get early access to promising medication, get to play a tiny role in helping others after us, and usually extra scans and biopsies (paid for by research instead of our insurance). I will learn more this week and in my appointment next Wednesday with Dr. Osborne.

I am laying in bed trying to send this and I just heard Linc, looking at tree, say, ‘we have everything we need and look at all these presents!’ So sweet! And I am thrilled that he thinks 4 presents is ‘all these presents!’bScott followed up and said ‘do you remember why we celebrate Christmas? … ‘ And reminded him (and me and you?) that Christmas is because Jesus came … And, because of Him, Scott told Lincoln that he couldn’t have been more right … we have everything we need!

Someone somewhere said ‘the man who has Jesus and nothing [or Jesus and cancer] is infinitely better off than one who has everything without Jesus.’ We are trusting our Jesus to help us rest and enjoy today, provide what we need medically and emotionally and financially, and to continue to uphold us.

Thanks for being a part of His plan to sustain and love us and pray for us.

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No time to edit before we get this day going so sorry for typos:)

‘It’s back.’ And in my back. Which means we’re back in the pink saddle.

Never the ride we wanted or expected but one we will walk nonetheless – upheld and strengthened by His mighty right hand. I remember so well my first entry on round one and the verse I included … Isaiah 42:16:
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known [we have known the cancer path but not metastatic (stage 4) breast cancer], along unfamiliar paths I will guide them [there are lots of different options in treatment so trusting His leading]; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth [more on this in a bit …]. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them [He hasn’t so far and won’t going forward!].

This may be a ramble of thoughts and stories and I had ‘happy medicine’ early today so can’t promise a logical sequencing. But wanted to bring our friends up to speed. We were loved so so so well in round 1 of this wild ride and have already seen a foreshadowing of the same for round 2. Thank you precious friends. My friend and obgyn came by this morning and referred to our room and support as a ‘fort.’ I feel absolutely girded and helped and protected by the prayers and presence of our friends and family.

I have had some back pain off and on for last couple of months but it wasn’t noteworthy in light of running, yoga, helping Jenn move furniture, carrying a 3 year old and life. In the last couple of weeks, however, it clicked for me (providential protection) that it was just my lower back and if it was muscular from exercise it seems like also my booty or quads or shoulders would be sore and, 6 weeks after the furniture move, I shouldn’t still be sore. So I began to be more attune to it and wondered if I should ask Dr. Osborne. Also, in the meantime (providential protection), some of my other pink breast friends and I had started a little support group for ‘pink not grey’ peeps (breasties that are younger than typical age for diagnosis of 62) and, in that group, I have met a girl whose cancer spread to her back and liver (before it was diagnosed) and the tumors broke her back. Did yall all just wince? I sure did when I first heard! Without our little group and without Shari’s story, I might have ignored the back pain. But I was at the hospital on Friday celebrating another friend finishing chemo so I texted my oncologist and asked if we could go up to see her. And, this is reason #39 that we love her … I can text and ask to see her on non clinic days and she responds with ‘come on up!’ Scott, Linc and I went up and told her about my back and she ordered a bone scan for Monday. While we waited to get scan scheduled, she loved the heck out of Lincoln. By later that night when he had a cut on his foot, he told us (with hands up signaling to keep our distance) that ‘Dr Osborne would get it’ (providential timing and gift for him). She scheduled a scan for Monday afternoon (12.8).

We went on about our day and went to dinner with some friends without any discussion or thought about my back. Until we were home about 8pm. All of a sudden I was in a heap of pain. Scott put Linc to bed and I tucked myself in as well and asked Scott to dig up some pain meds. He found some 2011 goodies and some Ambien and I struggled through the night. The next morning, we were awakened by Mr. Early Bird and I knew quickly that I wasn’t up for Mama duty. I struggled out of bed and pretty quickly texted Dr. O for more pain meds to hold me over until the scan. Instead of texting back, she called and after I explained the elevated pain and concern she sent me to the hospital – Baylor has an outpatient facility for cancer patients that is, essentially, an ER for cancer patients. It took awhile for them to get pain meds started but we knew we were in trouble when morphine and hydrocodone barely took the edge off. They ordered bloodwork and xrays of my back. They came back with thumbs up for a clear xray and good bloodwork which left me with mixed thoughts … ‘Well, I think that’s supposed to be good news but now I feel like a fool for coming to the ER and nothing is wrong?!’ This is when there was a really awkward moment when someone asked ‘have you fallen recently?’ and I SO WANTED TO LIE and say ‘no’ but instead had a flashback of my handstand fall in yoga the day before and had to sheepishly say ‘…. Umm, I fell in yoga yesterday…’ And then my pride was in full overpowering mode as I looked at Scott and said ‘please don’t let me be in ER because I fell in yoga…’ Umm, embarassing. The pain was still intense and friends insisted they join us – so we were accompanied by my childhood best friend, Jamie (aka B) and her husband, Trevor (who is conveniently a doctor!) and Angie (aka Gigi). Jamie had similar symptoms in spring so after we heard the good xray report we began speculating about kidney stones because of the spasms, intense pain, and location. We bought this theory hook, line and sinker. When Dr. Osborne came (yes, my oncologist came to see me not once or twice but three times over the weekend!) we explored this theory with her and she pounded on my back in kidney area (surprisingly it didn’t hurt). She gave us option to go home with pain meds and come back for scheduled scan on Monday or continue with testing. We had settled into fun with friends in ER and Lincoln was happy with my mom (aka Juju) so we decided we would stick around to get answers. They decided on a cat scan which would show more details on my back but also pick up a kidney stone. My dad (who died in 1993 after diabetes and kidney failure) and little brother have both had major kidney issues so I started to think this was a plausible answer. We waited for the results without much anxiety and found ourselves thankful for good care – and very curious about what was going on. We also had a great nurse who happened to also be a firewoman and knew my mom – that was super sweet. She got teary eyed talking about how loved my mom is in the department and how worried she would be. And, you tend feel like you get extra good care when the caregivers know your peeps!

Late in the afternoon, the ER doctor came in and I rather unsuspiciously said ‘oh, I guess you have results from the scan…’ as he pulled up a chair. I didn’t think much about that ‘chair move’ but Trevor recognized the nonverbal cues and the room got quiet. Very perfectly and gently and without trying to sugarcoat it, his first words were ‘it’s back…the cancer is back …’ It was (and is) a sobering, shocking, sad reality. Scott started praying (doctor still present) and then my oncologist called (mid-prayer) so we had a memorable, sweet, tearful prayer with both doctors and dear friends. After the prayer, Dr. Osborne picked up the conversation and informed us that the pain in my back is from a broken rib (broken by tumor) and there is also a mass in my liver… The answer every breast cancer survivor dreads. We are taught to say ‘I have breast cancer’ rather than ‘I had breast cancer’ because breast cancer is treatable but not curable so this is the shadow of possibility that follows us all.

Our heart mostly breaks and grieves for Lincoln. And, at that moment, the reality that we had information that would also crush my mom. But, in His kindness, God had pre-ordained plans with Jamie and Trevor that night (not at ER but they were happy to accommodate a change of locations!) so they were with us and available to drive to my house, tell my mom, and drive her back to the hospital. I still marvel at the providential protection for my mom – she got to hear in person from my friend (Jamie) that she has known for 30 years and her husband that is also a physician and is the perfect person to share and love and let my mom grieve. We were worried about telling my mom in Lincoln’s presence so Gigi went with them to take Lincoln but, as He would sweetly ordain it, Linc was asleep so Juju was surrounded by 3 of my friends who love us (and her) while Linc was protected from the news and tears.

The ER team checked us in to the hospital to help manage the pain and get necessary tests run. I had a bone scan yesterday (12.8.14) and a liver biopsy (ouch!) this morning. They will send me home either today or tomorrow.

We still have lots of questions, of course, and are waiting for lots of information that will impact our treatment plan. But, here are a few things we know:
– the cancer that was originally found in breast and lymph nodes had spread before I was diagnosed and those cells have begun to wreak havoc in bones and liver
– however, it is an incredible praise and provision of Lord that we detected it through back pain because once breast cancer becomes metastatic (fancy word for uncontained and dangerously spreading through body), it is often not detected until it has caused significant damage – like comprising liver function or lungs. And, thankfully, while there is a significant mass (2in, I think) on liver, the blood work shows my liver is still functioning very well. There is evidence of damage in the numbers but it isn’t comprising its function. We have also learned that the lymph nodes in my sternum show enlargement (usually evidence of disease) and doctors had to see this bc of proximity to lungs but, so far, no evidence of disease in lungs.
– Dr. Osborne will wait on biopsy results to finalize a plan of action but her initial thoughts focus on hormonal strategies (suppressing hormones which feed my cancer)
– the very day of my diagnosis she already had social dinner plans with all the big name female breast oncologists in our area from multiple hospitals (O’Shaughnessy, Haley, Blum…) and wanted to share my case with them to get their input
– Dr. Osborne already planned to leave today for the renowned breast cancer conference in SA and this year’s topic is ‘hormonal-based breast cancers’ (me!)
– my prognosis is being discussed as a range of months to years (probably not decades) but more likely years than months … We are so thankful for this!
– I pointedly asked her if she thought 15 years (seeing Lincoln through high school) would be ‘awesome’ (in other words, beyond expectations) and we could tell she wanted to say ‘no’ but she always shoots straight with us and, with tears in her eyes, she said ‘I think so…’ But we know that neither she nor statistics number my days and we trust the One who does.
– we are also thankful for all the incredible research and marketing (props to pink!) for breast cancer research because with each day and month and year they are one day or month or year closer to answers to medical solutions that would help our family.

I will wrap up with updated pictures because none of us look like we did when we first posted on this site (thanks again, Alyssa and Kristin) though my hair is all back! We will update the site picture soon but in the meantime I thought I would include a few from the last couple of days.

As for prayer requests, please pray as the Lord directs because He knows our needs minute by minute but our most pressing concern is Lincoln. He has been with the Rhodes’ since Sunday and they have had their hands full. We have already met with a child life specialist and are thankful for many friends and resource to help us. But, simply put, this stinks! No parent should have to talk to their 3 year old about ‘big sick’ or cancer or, in due time, the possibility of death. And no husband should have to try to maintain work and take care of their wife and be both mom and dad because, at least for now, Mama can’t even hold her little guy much less bathe or run and play or care for him alone. I can’t even find words for how overwhelmed I am with the way the Lord is supernaturally equipping Scott moment by moment with compassion, patience, leadership and love (and he would be first to admit those don’t come naturally for him … neither are they easy for me!). And I assure you that I think his role in our family given this diagnosis is infinitely harder than mine. I covet your prayers for him. I wouldn’t want to trade places with him. I know we can trust the One who put us together, surprised us with Lincoln, upheld us through the first wild ride, and knows everything to come. And I would love your prayers that we lean into Him and His faithfulness and goodness as He walks on with us.

We will be back in the blog business for those of you that want regular updates. You can either check back in for updates or select ‘follow’ and the site will email you when we write something new.

Thanks in advance for your pink, prayers and love!

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