Thursday, July 28, 2011

someone learned a lesson.

We just returned from a family vacation in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Every year our dear friend Nancy invites our whole family - and my mom - to stay at their gorgeous home right on the lake. It is a precious time for our family. We loved every minute. There is something very special about seeing your family and enjoying your family "outside" of the daily routine and surroundings. It helps you to appreciate things, and to see things more clearly from a different vantage point...

Mike went out tubing with the kids. I don't have a picture of him actually tubing because I wasn't out on the lake at the time - which is possibly why he got away with it. We don't notice the aftermath of his cancer surgery in the daily grind as much as when we are out doing different things... like tubing. Mike noticed pretty quickly that he did not have the arm strength to protect his shoulder from the jarring motion. He opted to "eject" from the tube by letting go almost immediately. In the process he noticed the neck strength he had lost when he bounced off the wave in a whiplash motion, because he lacked the strength to hold his head like he used to.

Note: He did not injure himself more than getting a sore neck - and he learned a lesson. Sometimes it is important to realize that there is still healing going on. Sometimes it is important to remember not to do crazy, silly things that could impair your progress.

(Sure hope Mike is reading the posts today. )

perspective giver.

Within our little county here in Nebraska, there is another man named Mike who was also diagnosed with head & neck cancer this year. We do not know him well and have heard about his story through friends... but his story is very different than ours.

The Other Mike's doctor recommended Radiation and Chemotherapy for his treatment and he said yes. They started by pulling all of his teeth. (Remember? Any teeth that are in poor health are pulled before radiation treatment because after radiating your mouth, the area would not heal if a tooth had to be extracted later because your overall dental health is impaired.) At the end of his radiation treatments and in the midst of his chemo treatments we heard that he had lost 75 pounds and they were threatening a feeding tube within days if he could not start some weight gain. (You still have the swallowing issues with radiation, but add to that no teeth and I would say that would be a pretty serious challenge to make mealtimes enjoyable.)

Now we also heard that the other Mike was not in as good of physical condition at his diagnosis as our Mike. There are many factors that come into play. But when we heard about Other Mike's story, we were reminded how thankful we are that God guided us to research that showed that there are other options besides radiation. We want to fall to our knees in thankfulness again at being guided to Dr. Bruce Haughey at the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis. Though cancer is a tough ride, we have so much to be thankful for.

it is easy to hate cancer.

I want to keep this post from becoming the length of a novella, but I would like to touch on a few of things that are very hard about having cancer. I am not talking about the conventional things that we could sort of prepare ourselves for like "pain, soreness, discomfort in swallowing, numbness at neck wound" etc. I am talking about the nagging things that are harder to describe...

Like not being able to sleep well. It was a weird thing when my husband, who sleeps like a baby every night as soon as his head hits the pillow, had restless sleep. For about 6 weeks when Mike was exhausted, sleep was hard to come by.

Like the weird side effects of his surgery from the extended period of time on a ventilator: a wicked bed sore on his heel (which Dr. H was not happy to hear about and commented that he would be talking to the nurses on the floor) and two funky bald patches on the back of his head (which did fill in at the 3 month mark).

Like how all the charming things that your wife used to do now bug the wee out of you. (It's the cancer talking. I have not changed. Now that we have figured this out, we can actually laugh about it... most of the time.)

Like how you feel pretty normal and recovered until you use some muscles out of the ordinary and realize how much strength you still have to get back.

Like how the unknown of the cancer's presence - or absence - is kind of haunting and keeps you praying for grace and strength and healing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

filling in for pastor mark.

Read excerpts from Susanne's Prayer Journal below.

On the last weekend in June, Mike filled the pulpit for Pastor Mark for the Saturday night and Sunday morning services at First Lutheran Church in Oakland, Nebraska This is not the first time that Pastor Mark has asked Mike to preach for him while he was on vacation, but this time he did say "why don't you share about your cancer journey since it has been such a spiritual ride?"

Mike did an excellent job and I wanted to post about it because he drew his inspiration by reading all the posts and reading all the comments from you, his followers. It was very inspiring for him.

While I cannot adequately capture the sermon in this little space, I would like to share a couple snippets. Besides talking about the numerous "Divine Coincidences", the wonder of prayer support, and his personal experience with angels in the recovery room (see angel sighting Thursday April 14, 2011) Mike also talked about the blessing of watching the girls' faith grow through his cancer journey. To capture the growth, he read an excerpt from Susanne's prayer journal, which she gifted to Mike after his surgery. Here are a couple entries:

March 2, 2011 Dear Jesus, I thank You for the wonderful family you have blessed me with. I thank You for my friends and family that help me in my walk with You Lord Jesus. I thank You for dying on the cross for me. I can't imagine what You went through but I know Your Love is true. The tax collector in the temple once said "Have mercy on me for I am a sinner." Lord, I am a sinner and I pray that you will have mercy on me. When You were walking through the street, a man was calling after You for You to heal him and You did because his faith made him well. Jesus, I pray that my dad's faith will make him heal as did the man on the side of the street. Thank You for my dad having such high spirits. God be with Him through this trial. Give him wisdom and strength to get through the treatment. This treatment is a scary thing. Calm our hearts and let Your presence be known. Lord, You said in Luke 18 that You will grant justice to His elect who cry out day and night. Lord, I pray that you will hear my prayers and heal my father. He loves You, Lord! Give me and my family comfort, Lord. Thy will be done! Amen

March 9, 2011 Dear Jesus, Thank You for the wonderful church service tonight. Thank You for my ability to sing in choir with my friends and my sisters, Lord. Thank You for the fun church dinner tonight. You have truly blessed me and have surrounded me with wonderful, compassionate, loving people. Thank You! Dear Jesus, I am so glad that I am able to come and talk to You in the hard times in my life and even the easy times. Lord, You always answer my prayers in some way. But it is always for a reason, and I understand that Jesus. I pray that You will heal my father from his illness. Lord, let my prayer be heard all the way from the top of the pyramids of Egypt! Let the world see Your strength through my dad - That his illness and how he defeated it was because of faith in You, Lord. Comfort his heart Lord and calm his mind so that he can go into this battle ready to overcome anything that gets in his way of having a healthy life. Lord, You know the plans You have for our lives. Lord, I pray that my dad being cancer-free in the future will be part of Your plan. You are a kind and merciful God. Have mercy on us for we are sinners. Lord, thank You for the Bible and for dying on the cross for my sins. I love You. Amen. Thy will be done!

Mike ended his sermon with the thought that a Marine gets his Eagle, Globe & Anchor because he earns it... but that this cancer journey has been about GRACE. He said he didn't think that he could earn enough money or stature to deserve the right to be Dr. Haughey's patient. He said he knows he isn't deserving of any of the amazing coincidences and loving prayers...

Just like in life's journey... where we don't deserve to be forgiven and saved. "But it is by grace you have been saved through faith; and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9