Christmas Gifts

written by: Jamie Kraus

Hi everyone.  It’s Jamie again reporting on Jen’s behalf.  (I so wish I had one of those cool caricatures to let you know it’s me writing today {Hite, can you help me out?}) .                          IMG_2297.png

Today was a good day at the hospital.  Yay!  After experiencing some really hard days in November, it seems that we are increasingly more appreciative of the good ones.

In light of the Christmas season, I thought I would list the ‘gifts’ that the Lord blessed Jen with today.

  1. Jen started the day off with a chest X-ray due to her shortness of breath.  Thankfully it was all clear.  Gift #1.
  2. Jen’s labs showed that her liver tumor markers are down, which is also good news.  (We have to remind ourselves often that the numbers being ‘down’ are all relative when they are in the 40s and should be <6, but at least she’s trending in the right direction).  Gift #2
  3. Jen’s white blood cell count was down so she is fighting anemia (other possible explanation for shortness of breath).  She may need blood in a week or so if her energy (which is the greatest issue) doesn’t improve.  But TODAY she did not need a transfusion.  Gift #3
  4. Dr. Osborne opened up Jen’s exam gown today and exclaimed ‘AWESOME’  when looking at the ‘girls’.  There had been some evidence of inflammatory breast cancer, however, that appears to be decreasing and we hope that means chemo is working.  (Let’s be honest, ladies.  What girl doesn’t want that reaction when opening her gown?)  Gift #4 (Oh & Gift #5 I guess too).
  5. The fact that Angela took a picture of the aforementioned exposure and I am not posting that picture.   Gift #6
  6. Lastly, the nurse who had to access Jen’s belly for a shot after chemo immediately said, ‘You have no fat!’.  We both grinned at each other and our former fatty selves gave each other an imaginary high five and a wink.  And although Jen would not recommend cancer as a weight loss strategy, she might as well enjoy those skinny abs if she’s gonna spend Christmas Eve’s Eve in the hospital for chemo.  Gift #7

Jen and I both agreed that today’s post would be short, but I know she would want to continue to express her gratitude for your kindness, your prayers, your errand running, your cards (both the ones she received and those you designed, addressed with her and stamped/stuffed for her to send to many of y’all), your decorating, your selling, your babysitting, your counseling, and your friendship.  (She would have used many more paragraphs to say the same thing. You’re welcome).

For now, the course of treatment will remain the same.  She will have chemo again in 3 weeks, and we are praying the numbers continue to go in her favor.  The side effects seem to have waned a bit, which is fantastic.  Jen has lost her hair, however, but found some snazzy hats to up her style.  I wasn’t surprised when I showed up this morning and she was in head to toe pink.  I couldn’t resist taking a pic.

For those that really know Jen, she loves her some pink almost as much as she loves her new flat tummy.

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It takes a special person to pull off a free pink crochet beanie from a basket in the waiting room.  Just in case you’re wondering.

As 2015 comes to an end, it seems natural to look back and reflect on the past year.  And wow, what a year it has been.  But the Lord has shown us favor time after time in unexpected ways with unexpected gifts.  Jen would be the first to highlight not only those gifts, but also/especially the Giver of those gifts.

I think it would be fair to say that the Clouse family wishes you a new year filled with knowing and experiencing the ULTIMATE gift: a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas with love,

Jamie (aka B)

 

Y’all. He hears. He answers.

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,  
out of the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
I hope as you read this, after B’s reports from ‘the pit’ (not of destruction but of heavy pain meds and lots of pain and endless throwing up questions and few answers …) that this read as ‘a new song in my mouth … A song of praise to our God.’ Because I am for SURE singing praises and gratitude. It has been a rough few weeks and got rougher instead of better in the hospital. For 9 days! What?! Before cancer I had never spent night in a hospital except when Lincoln was born so NINE DAYS?! And assuming each day that surely I was going home but at same time I was scared to death to go home because, well, actually I felt like death. When doctors would say ‘I think you need to stay until we get this resolved …’ I would be sad for Lincoln but relieved for myself. As people have said ‘I know you were soooo glad to be out of hospital…’ Ive responded the same each time: in that much pain I was happy to stay and have access to meds and help and I was far from concerned about anything I was missing in the outside world. My closest friends have since confessed that they were hovering because they were so heavy hearted and wanted to help – but also because they were afraid the next blog entry might be details about my service. I should have told them much sooner that I never feared for my life but I admit that I would have welcomed death if things didn’t improve. Those are serious words but this was moments of serious pain. And throwing up all day is for the birds. As if anyone needed that reminder or news flash.

But I marvel at the doctors’ care (both my oncologist who I always rave about and our new amazinf palliative care doctor, Cassanova) as they worked together for the source of the problems and solutions. And both daily set by my bedside with great concern and compassion. And I marvel at my mom wanting to spend every night with me (I told her she needed her own sleep at her age and she couldn’t hog the lovely coveted pullout couch but she for sure wanted to not miss a throw up or escort to potty … Poor Mama…) and my friends who I literally woke up to at my bedside and tucked me in every night. They were right to demand I not have visitors because who wants an audience for throw up and pushing the nurse call bottom to ask for more IV pain meds so I could go back to sleep…?! As many of you have noted and said, and I agree, yes, my friends are amazing. B even writes the blogs (hilariously well I might add!) for me. She has yet to say ‘no’ to a single request and she and Jenn and Molly and Amy and Angela can now grab the throw up bags like a ol’ Wild West cowboy drawing his six-shooter out of his holster. The first day that we were in the ER it was comical to watch them get one and unravel it and give it to me – and then give me another and another – but by the end of the stay they had mastered it.

I don’t know why or how my body got the ‘we are going to be well now’ memo but it did … And flipped a switch on Sunday! On Saturday night I tried just a bite or two of salad and went straight to couch with 2 dilaudid (5-7x strength of hydrocodone) to bear the stomach pain. And my tummy had been that fickle and painful since Thanksgiving. I had quit throwing up but maybe not eating for 6ish weeks and then eating Thanksgiving lunch as your first full meal was, shall we say, overkill for the stomach?! But somehow and someway and (maybe because I laid on couch on Saturday night and begged the Lord to be better?!) but on Sunday I ate like a normal person and felt like one too! I practically seem hyper compared to my energy level and capacity over the last few weeks. And it is wonderful. 

Huge hugs and thanks to all who prayed for us during the hospital stay and beyond. He has heard our cries and answered. And I sincerely pray that others can see the provision of our God for me and learn to trust His goodness for themselves. I recently learned that the Lord used the blog and our story to bring a friend’s friend (if you are Lisa’s friend I am celebrating you!) to saving faith in Jesus and acceptance of His gift of grace. And I was overcome with joy. I couldn’t agree more with the message of Luke 15 … Cancer is worth it for just one soul to be redeemed and know the grace of my Savior. Yes it’s a high price to pay but comparing the rest of my days to her eternity leads to a pretty simple comclusion. And, for me, it is truly what John said (1:14) ‘… blessings one upon another…’

Linc continues to keep us laughing and persevering. I am losing my hair again. And, yesterday, as he was awake far too early for my taste and cuddling in bed listening to an iPod that one of my ‘pink ladies’ pre-loaded for me, he said, “Mama, your hair is everywhere … that’s disgusting … why did you make your hair blonde and fall out?” Little man, it ain’t my hair color. That be the chemo. But my friend Becky trimmed it all up again and I’m sure a shave is in my near future. This chemo (taxotere) is so hard on hair that they can tell you to the day when it will fall out … And I woke up on that day to wads of hair coming out in my fingers. Lovely. Thankfully, I’m over hair. 

Lastly, as I think about Ps 40 and the joy that I have along with gratitude for feeling so much better I wanted to share the words of a long-time favorite hymn. Because, truly, whether it is because I was naive about how sick I was or whether the Lord just sustained my mind relative to not fearing death, He made it possible for me to sincerely say ‘it is well with my soul…’ And I think I would be foolish to give the impression that He is good because I feel better. That’s not true. It’s far simpler…

He is good. All the time.

And it is well with my soul… As so beautifully written, out of his own heartache, in this hymn by Horatio Spafford.

1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, 

when sorrows like sea billows roll; 

whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, 

It is well, it is well with my soul. 

Refrain: 

It is well with my soul, 

it is well, it is well with my soul.

2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, 

let this blest assurance control, 

that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, 

and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

3. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! 

My sin, not in part but the whole, 

is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, 

praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

4. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, 

the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; 

the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, 

even so, it is well with my soul.

Thanks for reading and bringing meals and organizing Lincs closet and my new iPod and bringing green throw up bags and loving us by loving our little man and flowers and notes and gift cards and taking our picture and doing our Christmas card and money and errands and picking up medicine and fixing my computer and making Lincs lunch and giving us hand me down clothes I love and for praying and loving us

Our God sustains our soul and He uses y’all to meet our physical needs and sustain our bodies. He has indeed met ‘every one of our needs according to the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus.’ And all Gods people said…?!

And just to pretty the post up can I please share one of the precious pictures that Kristin captured of me and my love bug?! I think it is a cross between so so so sweet and that’s weird … Are they making out?! In his words, he is often ‘out of kisses’ and other times it’s a little all-boy-overly-aggressive-affection. It makes me smile though.

 And just to keep things real you should know that as we walked from the back house to the park at the end of our street he threw an all-out-flail-on-concrete-fit about the whole picture-taking thing because, as he often says, ‘I hate pictures!’ So right after the fit he was, as pictured below, Mr. Headless NonCooperation. Let this remind you not to believe the lie that tempts you to believe ‘it is well’ in every home but yours because of pretty Christmas card pics…  

And on top of us sweating in this picture and begging Linc to act normal, I also look pregnant. That is medically impossible but the picture tells another story. Just keepin’ it real for my peeps.