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Be Still, My Soul. Remembering...

My first post of 2014.

Looking back on my last post, I'm overwhelmed with many emotions. It was the last post before our world was turned upside down, before the cold weather hit hard, before doctor visits became our norm. Before Halloween, Thanksgiving, my 30th birthday, Christmas and New Years. Looking back at the title of that post, I'm struck with how appropriate it was for the rest of the year. I tried to blog a few times since October 13th. But I never got to the point where I felt like I could publish. I had a million and one thoughts constantly tumbling around in my tiny mind. Writing helped to unload it, but just like it is with my trusty old dishwasher, there's always dirty dishes to take the place of the clean ones and I found myself overwhelmed and overcome with both good and bad...clean and dirty. My brain has felt like mush since October. Add holidays, getting sick, taking care of sickies, being the strong one, being the brave one, being the healthy one (for the most part) only added to the mushiness.

It's been 13 weeks since we first heard the word lymphoma. Since we were first struck with the very awful sense that there was something really wrong with my husband. That this wasn't just the common cold. The fevers, the fatigue, the night sweats, the immense swelling of lymph nodes on his neck, the loss of weight (16 pounds in 2 weeks - sign me up. Or not). It was all so very real and scary. I'll never forget the night when Peter sat me down and said that the doctor had called him earlier that day with the news that they did in fact find traces of lymphoma from the needle biopsy...two weeks after the biopsy had been done. I'll never forget the emotions of hearing the phone ring, hoping that it was the doctor on the other line with news. ANY news. Every time that phone rang, my heart would stop and then start up again, beating 100X faster. The waiting was the hardest. We live in a day where we can get whatever we want at the swipe of a finger. The age of the smart phone, the internet - technology at its best. Everything is faster, speedier. Everything except for medical test results. 3 days. A week. 2 weeks. At the end of the week. Inconclusive, second opinions. Positive. Negative. We heard it all. Our eyes were opened to a whole new world. A world of cancer. Of hurting people, of pain, of the unknown. Weeks full of doctor appointments. We were drawn closer together as husband and wife, as a family. Our friends and family reached out to us with genuine love and care. Our church family made themselves available, they prayed for us during their staff prayer time...and personal prayer time as well. Our elders prayed over Peter with outstretched arms and oil. Our Pastor of a congregation of 5,000 people (spread over three campuses) was kept up-to-date on how Peter was doing and prayed for him as well. We had people stop by the house to drop food off, to pray with us. We even had a friend show up at the hospital with coffee and food in hand, unexpected. Care packages were sent from people I hardly know. We were humbled. We were loved. We were made aware of God's goodness and ever present presence in a whole new and beautiful way. Scripture jumped off the pages at us, the radio played songs that made us cry and spoke to us in a time of need. Random texts from people popped up on our phone screens and made us weep. God made Himself so real. The intimacy was sweet.

One of the songs that became precious to us was Tenth Avenue North's Worn. It's become quite popular now, but back in October, it was brand new to us. We had never heard it. It popped up on my Pandora station that I was listening to. I remember having to sit down because I was so overcome. A sob escaped me and Peter called out from the other room asking if I was okay.  As soon as the song was over, I went over to the bed where Peter was resting and had him listen to it. We wept together. Since we first heard the song, our Christian radio station began playing it non-stop. And every time it came on, Peter and I would catch each other's eye and smile a weary and knowing smile.

 

I remember going to bed the night Peter told me he had lymphoma, the night before his surgery was to take place. He was reading a devotional out loud to me. It was about Jesus' birth in a stable. I remember thinking, God I already know the Christmas story - I can't really apply this to my life right now. Why are we reading about Christmasy stuff on November 18th.? Why couldn't this chapter be about pain and suffering? I need help. I need to be encouraged. I need to know how to encourage my scared husband... To be told that everything is going to be alright. That you are still mighty to save. And then Peter got to the last page and my spiritual ears suddenly perked up.

  "And in that is a Christmas word to us.  There are times while seeking to follow God faithfully, we find ourselves in a desperate moment, forced to a place we would not choose to go. It's then we must remember: our lives and circumstances are not ultimately about us (1 Cor. 6:19-20). They are about Jesus Christ.
  The Father has purposes for us and our hardships that extend far beyond us. What often appear like misfortunes in the moment later prove to be means of great mercies.  
  In your place of desperation it may be that what you need most is not less turmoil, but more trust.  For God chooses stables of desperation as the birthplaces of His overwhelming grace." (Not by Sight - Jon Bloom)

I was speechless. I was in awe. I was crying. We both were. I took the book from his hands after he was done reading, to reread it. I then snapped a picture of the page on my iphone so I could take it with me the next morning to read during his surgery. Nine weeks have passed and Christmas has come and gone. The realness of that night still glows bright in my memory. I still tear up when I read that section of the book.

Since that night, my husband had surgery to remove an actual lymph node. Surgery went well, as did recovery. He was a trooper. He also met with an oncologist on December 2nd. Sitting in the waiting room of the Cancer Care Center was unreal. I noticed blankets in baskets at easy reach for the patients, I read signs saying please refrain from wearing perfume in respect of the patients. I noticed knitted hats on hairless heads. And I quickly realized that the nurses knew these patients not only by sight, but also by name and vise versa - these were all things you don't see very often. At least I don't. We felt very much like visitors and outsiders. As I sat there absorbing all of the sights, I fought back tears thinking that the stranger sitting across from me with her cancer-ridden loved one, might be me in a few weeks. The thought was very sobering. I remember how encouraging the visit was with the oncologist. He was very impressed with how well Peter was and had been feeling. He gave up hope and was pretty convinced that the test results would be available at the end of that week and that they would be favorable. If indeed the results came back negative, he still wanted Peter to schedule a CT scan and followup with him at the end of January (8 weeks out). Just to see how things were looking (even though he was encouraged with how well Peter was feeling, he could still feel way too many lymph nodes that he shouldn't be able to feel by hand). I for one was beyond excited to not have any doctor appointments in our near future. 8 weeks out seemed like a beautiful eternity. We left with restored hope and once again, we were jumping at every phone call Peter received. That next day, on December 3rd, we celebrated my 30th birthday. My wish as I blew out my candles was an easy one to make...and I didn't have to think on it like I usually do, because it had become a daily wish ever since November 18th.  I wish God would heal Peter and make his cancer go away.

I'll never forget that Thursday afternoon, just a few days later after his appointment. Peter called me. He said that his doctor had called him and the results came back with no traces of lymphoma. They had even sent the samples over for a second opinion with the Mayo Clinic. NO CANCER! We were in shock and honestly, a little numb. It took us a few days to digest the good news and to feel up to letting everyone know. It was almost like finding out that we were pregnant. We wanted to let the whole world know...and yet, it felt wrong spreading the news just minutes after finding out. We needed a couple of days where it was just us knowing the good precious news. I also knew that it wouldn't be so simple to pass on the word. Just as it was with keeping everyone updated, it took a lot of planning to let our loved ones know the good news. First our families needed to know (in person, phone, email, texting), then close friends (phone, email, texting, fb messaging), our small group and church (email, phone call), and lastly, our facebook world of friends and family. I had learned early on in this journey that I was in sore need of a personal assistant to help me keep everything and everyone up-to-date and to help me stay organized. By the time the good news came around to spread, my brain was indeed mush. BUT, I think I made the rounds without forgetting anybody. :p

This verse came to mind so often, and still remains precious.  It really helped me to know that Peter wasn't going through this for nothing. That there was a purpose for and through this.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7


Since the good news, I've felt drained and have fought a few battles of depression. Which I find to be strange and confusing. Shouldn't it be the opposite? Shouldn't I be jumping up and down with happiness and contentment?  A small part of me was. My goodness, I was ecstatic, to put it mildly. But only a small part of me found the ability to dance a happy dance. The rest of me was fighting for strength. For weeks I had been the strong one, the one at peace, the optimist. And yet when all finally seemed right with my world, I was at my lowest. I blame it partly on the stress of the last few months, the stress of Christmas AND the stress and blahness of MN winter. Homesickness too. Also, on a stubborn sinus headache that lasted a good 6 weeks. The fatigue and pain that overtook me was intense. My 30th birthday was no fun. A birthday that I had been highly anticipating. All of this did not help my depression at all. Thankfully, I am close to feeling back to my normal, whacky self. My husband has been patient with me and my kids have loved me unconditionally. And God has been constant.  Even when I was at my lowest, He was still faithful. This song was sung at church on Sunday during the offertory. I fought back many tears...and let a few escape, much to my mascara's horror. I have since claimed this song as mine.


On a happier note...

Our Christmas card makes me smile for so many reasons. 1) We're together and smiling - genuine happy smiles. 2) The bible verse under our names was a verse we held very dear to us through Peter's illness. We claimed it daily: By His stripes we are healed. 3) I knew that each person that we sent our Christmas card to had been praying for us. That was so very humbling.



Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21

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Blog posts without pictures can become quite dull...especially loooong ones like this one. Thanks to my instagram, I was able to journal via pictures during those dark weeks.

A dear and sweet friend showed up unexpectedly at the hospital during Peter's needle biopsy. She wasn't sure if I was going  to be able to be in the room with Peter during the procedure, and she didn't want me to be alone, so she showed up to sit with me. She ended up sitting by herself in the waiting room, with food and drink in hand for us. I was blown away by her kindness and thoughtfulness.

My first nephew was born while Simon and Peter were sick. We met him the night after Peter's needle biopsy, a couple of weeks after he was born. Holding him was magical.
Simon's prayer life increased as Peter's health deteriorated. He was constantly asking his daddy how he was feeling and then he would pray for him. My heart cried happy tears every time.

Like his older brother, Miles would often remind us to pray.

Miles became Peter's little shadow during Peter's illness. He could tell something was wrong and only wanted his daddy. They have been super close ever since.
 
Our sweet friends who now live in California were in MN visiting family. They took time out of their very busy schedule and drove all the way to Saint Paul to visit us - bringing bags full of food and goodies. Sweet darlings. 

My husband right before surgery. So brave, young and handsome.

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