Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: The Scroll by Grant Jeffrey and Alton Gansky

In The Scroll, Dr. David Chambers is the leading archeologist on a mission in Israel to try to find treasures hidden for thousands of years. The story is set in 2013, so that made it especially interesting to think of what could happen in Israel in the next couple of years. David is a person who has lost his faith in God. A lot of the interest I had in the story was to find out if he regained his faith. Because of the tensions between team members, the unrest inherent in the Middle East, and the spiritual conflict in David’s own heart, constant action and surprising twists occurred.

Much information about Biblical truth is given as part of the story. God’s past dealings with His people Israel and promises for their future are featured. I was challenged to consider just what I believe will happen as the end times wind down. I found myself comparing articles in the newspaper with what I had just read about Israel in the book!

I chose to read this book because of enjoying reading Alton Gansky’s Distant Memory many years ago. Between Gansky and Grant Jeffrey’s writing, this book is cohesive, informative, scary, exciting, and captivating. I recommend it for serious readers interested in Biblical archeology, Biblical accuracy, End Times, Israel, mystery, intrigue, and danger. There is a little romance in there too, but it is not the major theme. God’s patient faithfulness to call people to Himself is a topic that appeals to me.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Couple of Blessings

We just wanted to take the opportunity (our blog) to share a couple of blessings we received from the Lord today, through two different ladies.

1) Plums for Mother. The woman who is learning Dad's work has a plum tree and shared some plums with our family last week. They were VERY yummy, but especially so to Mother. Her taste is very adversely affected with the treatments she's been having, so when something is good, we try to capitalize on that - like having SunnyD available for her to drink! Well, Dad told this lady that the plums were DELICIOUS to Mother, and she gave her some more today. We are SO thankful!!!

2) A homeschool friend picked and gave ~5 or 6 gallons of green beans to us today. We always try to grow green beans in our garden, but have had very small crops for a couple of years. We were so glad for the gift of more to can (or "jar" rather =) ).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Beth's 18th birthday September 26, 2011

When I think about our daughter, Beth, the word "faithful" comes to mind immediately. Since she was 10 1/2 years old, she has published a monthly newsletter called "God's Girls' Newsletter." When she started it, this is how big she was:

We never would have thought that at age 18, she would still be doing it. She started out typing it in Word, and has since then learned two different versions of Publisher. She has written her own articles, edited articles sent in by the members, designed layouts, mailed and emailed the newsletters faithfully month by month. "I have more understanding than all my teachers..." Ps. 119:99 is definitely true about all my children and their computer skills.

This May, Beth graduated from our homeschool and said she wanted to stay at home and learn more homemaking skills. With this being the year of my cancer journey, she has been invaluable in so many ways: driving me to appointments, doing a lot of the meal preparations and cleanups, cleaning house, keeping laundry going, besides doing her babysitting job and cleaning the Chamber of Commerce every week. She has done some canning, has a quilt in progress (that she designed by herself using Photoshop), and has been one of the main gardeners this summer. I cannot tell you what a huge blessing she is in our home!

Every day she performs whatever needs to be done in our home without complaining or resenting having to do it. She has been active in a girls' Bible study all summer, being a mentor to younger girls. She faithfully helps with the children's ministry in Federal Heights each Sunday, encourages her pen pals by writing interesting letters, and is diligent in personal Bible study and prayers for many on her prayer list.

We are blessed to have such a wonderful, loving daughter! We are praying God will bless her life for the faithfulness and unselfish service she is showing.

Happy 18th birthday, Beth!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Last Chemo Day Praise the Lord!!

To start off, I thought for educational purposes, I would show you my port site. It is on my left upper chest. I have to have another appointment with the doctor in three weeks, another lab draw, and then I can schedule with the surgeon to have it removed. It is supposed to be an in-office procedure to remove the port. It has been a huge blessing to have the port in place for all the chemo and blood draws. I have some numbing cream I put on it an hour before my appointments and I cannot even feel the poke of the needle into it. The place of "poking" is in the middle, below the longer incision, where you can see the round spot.

This is a picture of me today getting the last chemo infusion. I wore my new pink fuzzy hat and the nurses and other patients loved it! Everybody had to comment on it. One man patient who is getting chemo for breast cancer also, said he didn't think it was my natural hair color. Then we compared our bald heads! Yes, men get breast cancer too! It is more rare, but it happens. In pictures this hat looks almost white, but it is a pastel pink.

This is after the chemo was complete and I am ready to go home. My infusion nurses, April and Kathy are left and right of me, and my oncologist, Dr. Ann Stroh, is on the right of the picture. These are wonderful people and all Christians who care about and pray for their patients. I am holding an afghan gift and a card Kathy made and everyone signed. If you click on the envelope, you will see the word: Survivor, and a poem about it.

Everything went really well today. The part I dreaded the most, when I get the Benadryl, my legs usually getting very restless and jumpy, did not happen today!! That was an answer to prayer.

I found out what the plan is for the future.
In three weeks, I have an appointment to get my labwork checked and visit with Dr. Stroh about followup meds, which will include Tamoxifen for 2-5 years. Since I was pre-menopausal when I started this journey, Tamoxifen is the drug of choice for suppressing estrogen production in my body. My cancer was receptive to estrogen, so it is advantageous to not have it running around in my body. If I have cycles again in the next 2 years, I will stay on Tamoxifen for 5 years. If I do not have cycles again in the next 2 years, I can be put on a drug for post-menopausal women, which I do not remember the name of at the moment.

There is a clinical trial that Dr. Stroh would like for me to be in. Studies have found that diabetic women who are on Metformin do not get breast cancer. So now studies are being done to see if adding Metformin to the anti-estrogen drug regimen is more effective at preventing recurrence of cancer than just the anti-estrogen drug. It is a double blind study, so the doctor nor I will know if I am getting Metformin or a placebo. Metformin is the pill that Rowen is on for his diabetes. I am hoping that that means he will never face male breast cancer!

Dr. Stroh believes that I should have the flu shot, which I will get at that appointment. I have not gotten the flu shot for many years, but she feels it is very important, so I will do it.

She said I will not have mammograms in the future, but she will check me at my every three month appointments with her. These will not continue forever, but at least for a while I will see these dear people every three months. It will not be as often as every three weeks, at least!

Tomorrow I go back for the liter of normal saline, and my Neulasta shot. I stay on steroids by mouth through tomorrow, so I should feel pretty energetic for another day. Thank you to each one for your prayers for my chemo today. I appreciate every one for thinking of me. The doctor said since I have been under the influence of chemo for the past 18 weeks, I should expect that it could take that long to fully recover from the effects.

I am going to try some Tea Tree oil and Hard as Hoof on my fingernails. One of them is loosening up. I really would rather not lose them if I can prevent it.

God is good to me. I feel really blessed for how He has brought me through!! Love to all!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Almost done!

This next Thursday (September 22) will be my last chemo treatment. I am feeling pretty well and ready to get it over with! This last time, it seemed like the "aggravations" I have for side effects were harder to get through. In the interest of honesty, transparency, and education, I will share what these aggravations are.

I take steroid medicine by mouth the day before and the day after chemo, and by IV on chemo days. This causes a flushed appearance like I am horribly embarrassed (steroid glow). After Saturday, this wanes, and I have the hot flashes every half hour or so that make me hot and flushed. (The chemo sent me into menopause.) If I am at home, I might take off my head covering during these. If I am in public, I fan myself or will myself not to react in any obvious way. I even have hot flashes in the night, so I am taking covers off and on all night long.

By Saturday, I have blurry vision. This lasts about a day. I don't trust myself to drive the Saturday after treatment.

On Sunday, Monday, Tuesday I have bone pain from the Neulasta shot I get on Friday after chemo. It is mostly in my legs and hips, but sometimes shoulders and arms. I take Ibuprofen on a schedule for this and it really helps the pain be less.

By Monday through Thursday, I have gastritis, which includes feeling kind of "flu-y" abdominal cramps, lots of burps and indigestion, running to the restroom, tummy hurting after eating.

By Friday, I am feeling better, more normal and more energy, but there are other things that go on until the next chemo day that are just not fun, but part of the package.

During the second week after chemo, each time I have gotten a sore on the side of my tongue. It takes about three days before it is gone. I am very thankful to only get one at a time, because I know that many people have multiple mouth sores when they are on chemo. While I have it, even talking is painful.

Everything tastes strange, like the taste of metal cans. Some days it is hard to make myself eat. Someone asked me what I was most anxious to eat after I get my taste back. I am planning to enjoy everything, even a glass of milk, tasting normal again. Sometimes I crave a certain food, and it is so disappointing that it also tastes weird. I know it will take longer than three weeks after this last chemo to get my normal taste back, because I have never gotten it back in between the treatments. Almost every day, I think of my brother, who lost his taste and smell from a head injury several years ago, and I know he has it worse than me. I can enjoy the smells of food, and I have hope that soon I will enjoy the tastes of food again.

My eyes have twitched every day since probably the second treatment. At times, the twitching gets really frustrating, so I am glad for the hours that go by without it happening.

My fingernails and toenails hurt a lot. My fingernails have a very strange shape and there are bumps and ridges on them because of the chemo. When I type, or pick things up, or wring out a washcloth, or do any number of things, my fingernails hurt. My toenails hurt also, but not as much as the fingernails. My fingernails have rings in them. I figure kind of like the rings in trees show the years, my fingernails show the rounds of chemo they have endured. They haven't fallen out yet; the doctor says they can.

I don't have the strength or endurance I used to have. Vacuuming one large room in our house makes me tired. When I try to lift heavy things, or hold a baby, I know I am not as strong as I used to be. I know it will take awhile to get over the effects the chemo has had on my overall strength. When we go on walks and do long stairs as part of the walk (like up and down from the track around the football field) my legs are shaky. I hold Rowen's hand because I love him, but also because I need to hold his hand.

One very frustrating thing is short term memory problems. I have a very hard time remembering what I did yesterday, or today, or, what was I doing right before I started doing this? I do remember that they call this "chemo brain." I am hoping that my memory will improve over time.

If you ask me how I am doing, I will say, "Great!" and mean it with all my heart. I have so little to complain about, compared to so many people. I have some inconvenient things going on, but everybody does, or will have inconveniences sometime. I am so blessed to have able bodied, kind, and loving family around me who do everything that I cannot do right now, without complaining, even! Some have intimated that I am trying to make it look too easy, so I thought I would just share the little things I have to complain about. Please know that I will be thrilled to have the last chemo day behind me, but I will not feel well for at least a week after it. Then I will still be working through the other "aggravations" for an unknown length of time. We will wait and see how long it takes.

I am so grateful for God's help to get me through this journey through cancer. Without Him, what would I do? I have the joy of the Lord each day for my strength. He gives me a sense of humor so that I can laugh at myself instead of hating looking like a bald old lady. He has given me a dear husband and precious children who would do anything in the world to help me and regularly do 'way more than their share. Many family and friends are faithfully praying for me. All of our family has been so healthy this summer, so I have not had to worry about germs. Besides all the wonderful birthday cards I got, I have been blessed with many, many 'get well' and 'praying for you' cards. I have a wonderful doctor, and kind, competent nurses. I have gotten excellent care. I feel like I am spoiled rotten!

I hope no one else has to go through the cancer journey. But if it helps to know what mine has been like, I want to share enough details to take the fear out, and help someone to know that they can get through it. With God's help! Never try it without God's help.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: Stained Glass Hearts

Stained Glass Hearts: Seeing Life from a Broken Perspective by Patsy Clairmont

There are lots of giggles and laughs in there, or it wouldn’t have been written by Patsy Clairmont, but this book has more serious or somber tones than others I have read. Patsy shares some of the broken pieces of her life, and how God has put her back together, given joy, and brought beauty through the ashes and the tears.

Since I myself am on a cancer journey, I chose to read and review this book to gain more perspective about brokenness and difficult places. Patsy transparently shares how God brought her from phobias and addictions to healing through the power of the Word and trusting God moment by moment to change thoughts and habits.

One section of the book was particularly powerful in my life. Patsy gave five suggestions for maintaining joy through pain. Three of the five were “Choose gratitude.” Gratitude and joy are both choices that we have the power to make. Even in our pain, “we can in the midst of it thank God for who he is. It is a sacrifice of praise when we acknowledge his lordship” (p. 70).

Patsy says many things in this book that we all need to heed. Every life will have struggles, losses, pain, and suffering, eventually. How we respond to these will determine whether the beauty of Christ will shine through our lives. I recommend this book, especially if you love reading Patsy Clairmont and if you are going through brokenness. I will share my copy with the first person to request it by commenting on our family blog.

I received a free copy of Stained Glass Hearts from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for this review.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jason's 16th birthday

(This is a picture of Jason enjoying Jeffrey's desk after Jeffrey left for college. Jeffrey misses his good chair quite a bit.)

Last week, Jason attained the age of 16.
He also took the test to get his driver's permit and passed. Now he has a year to learn and practice driving. He worked at ACE Hardware on his birthday until late in the evening. His boss always gets a birthday cake for each one's birthdays, so we waited until the next day to make our special dessert for him. We don't have picture proof, but the blueberry cheesecake was very delicious! Jason's birthday gift was a light for his piano.

The book open on the piano is one from a Walker Hymn Sing. We sing a hymn before prayer each evening.
The special activity for Jason's birthday was going bowling with Uncle Dan and Aunt Esther Mendez and the cousins: Hadassah, Sarah, and Kwani. We were all beginners, as I haven't bowled since 1980, and Rowen since 1983. The kids had never bowled. The Mendezes gave us pointers, and we enjoyed learning. All of us made at least one strike. We played two games and felt appropriately worn out! Thankfully, none of us were the worse for the wear the next day.
We thought this lane label was appropriate for the occasion.

The Kaus Family's new baby

Our dear friends, Randy and Kelly Kaus, have a new baby boy to love. Luther Lawrence Kaus was born on September 1, and weighed 9 lbs, 4 oz! He is now home from the hospital and we are looking forward to getting acquainted with him. We praise God for his blessings!
Luther's siblings: Quinten, LeighAnna, and Harrison

Kelly and baby Luther

Proud daddy, Randy and Luther

Luther all dressed up to go home from the hospital

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bright Lights Discipleship Group

Beth and Emily are so glad to have the privilege to be in a discipleship group (Bible Study) with some other homeschool girls. They had seven meetings this summer and are going to continue with nine more this fall.

The meetings usually start with music: singing around the piano; then prayer/memory verse time with partners; then the lesson; an activity; and tea. The lesson curriculum and group is called BRIGHT Lights. (BRIGHT stands for Being Radient in Godliness, Holiness, and Testimony. You can click here for more information. The lessons were written by Miss Sarah Mally, who started B.L. discipleship groups. Now, leaders sign-up to have the "Bible studies" and use the lessons.)

One day they made little "lanterns" out of tea-cups:

They sang some of their songs at two nursing homes; shared testimonies, played piano, violins, and flute, and visited with those there.

Greeley Bright Lights group.

Emily and two others at a Bright Lights meeting.

B.L. group leader, Mrs. Fulton.

More girls...

Having tea...

Friday, September 2, 2011

#5 Chemo done!

So glad to have chemo treatment #5 behind me. The last one is September 22. At least two people came in yesterday for chemo who did not get to have their treatments. One went to the hospital and the other has to wait a week. I am thankful I have had no delays, infections, fevers, or low blood counts to prevent the treatments. God is better to me than I deserve! I give Him all the praise!

I am feeling well at the moment, but I know that the next few days will bring bone pain, tiredness, some gastritis distress, but trusting I will get through it without being too grumpy or "complainy". My family is always wonderful to do whatever I don't feel like doing and to give me a break.

Thank you every one for the continued prayers. I feel like I am carried by everyone's prayers, so that I don't worry about myself. There are so many others I am able to pray for when I am not bogged down by my own situation. I appreciate each one for praying for me and I appreciate the Lord for answering those prayers!