Thursday, September 27, 2007

10 More Days...

We’re supposed to be in a tapering mode with our marathon training. Unfortunately, I feel exhausted and as though we are doing at least the same amount of running, if not more than we did in prior weeks. Our Saturday morning runs are definitely lower as we are only doing 60 minutes this week. During the week, however, my body is not used to this amount of running. The schedule called for 40 minutes Monday, 40 minutes Tuesday and 45 minutes yesterday. Previously, I remember doing about 20 or 30 minutes on Monday, Cross Training on Tuesday and group training on Wednesday. Writing it down makes it seems the same, it just felt like we used to do less.

There are only 10 more days until the marathon – if I count today. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll fall into a depression after October 7th. With all this training and such a big goal completed, where will all my energy be directed? Maybe I’ll finally get something done around my house. I really don’t want to quit exercising entirely, though. Part of the reason it seemed like a good idea to train for this marathon was that it would get me into an exercise routine that I would be able to stick with in the future. Even so, completing the marathon really could play havoc with my emotions because it will bring such a change in my schedule. Thankfully, there is Jaycie’s birthday and the holidays quickly approaching and that should keep my mind distracted.

It seems so surreal that we are coming upon marathon day. I never thought I’d get to this point and now it’s so close that I’m a little scared. What if I don’t have the energy to complete the 26.2 miles? What if I get injured? What if this new shirt we’re supposed to wear for Team in Training causes my arms to chafe? What if the food I eat the night before is too different than my body is used to? What if it’s a morning that I feel the need to use the bathroom continually during the run? What if I can’t sleep the night before at the hotel? There are all kinds of silly thoughts that come to my mind. No matter how silly, though, they are all things that I’m concerned about.

To be honest, my biggest concern is probably just with the emotion of the day. There will be a lot surrounding it. Everyone talks about the energy involved in such an event. My thoughts continue to be with my dad. And tomorrow, Rod’s dad goes to meet with his doctors. We’re praying that his numbers will remain the same and that everything is ok with him. Emotionally, I can’t handle having both dads in the hospital. My father-in-law fell the other day by tripping over a suitcase and banged himself up pretty well. He also was up on the roof messing with the chimney last week and he admits that he wore himself out. Last night, he seemed fairly weak and Rod commented that he thought he looked a bit pale, as well. Cancer is a terrible disease and I’m scared that my girls could lose both of their grandpas.

Fear is a terrible thing if we allow it to grab hold of us. It can be consuming. So I try to find my comfort in God. He knows what is going on and knows exactly what each one of us needs.

Matthew 6:8 “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wasted Energy

There are many times that I get myself all worked up and stressed out about something that results in just a bunch of wasted energy. For example, last night, we had our first small group.

We have a group meeting in our home to discuss the One-Year-Bible. Our Pastor has encouraged us as a church to read the One-Year-Bible together to get all of us into our Bibles a little more. Rod has wanted to lead a small group for sometime now so it works out for us to lead a group on this subject.

I’ve been stressing out about having people in our home regularly again. We love to host. We love to meet new people. It’s keeping the house clean that always creates stress. I feel like that is where my focus had to be the past two days because I’ve really let the house go with everything else that is going on. However, I was able to get the house in a condition I was comfortable with and still get my running in for the day.

Exhaustion has also described my life recently. When the girls go to bed, I often fall asleep on the sofa. I felt that feeling settling in, as it was time for everyone to arrive. As the couples starting walking in the door, I felt my energy start to perk up a bit and I was as talkative as always during the conversation. People ended up staying an hour after our official small group ended just to get to know one another better.

I am glad Rod was so adamant about hosting a small group. It helps take my eyes off myself for a minute and remember what we are on this earth for. And despite my lack of time, it is always good to meet new people. The day I learn to remember all of this and take it in stride rather than waste my energy stressing about it will be a day of maturity, indeed.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tears with Peace

This past week was an exhausting one. Although I seem overwhelmed with the to-do list that I have in my head, I think the biggest thing stealing my energy is simply the situation with Dad.

On Friday morning, my sister, Traci, called and informed me she was going to visit Dad. We left all the kids with Sabrina and went to the hospital. I’m grateful she called and asked me to go with her. It was a good visit and we were able to have some good conversations. There was a large shock factor as I entered the room and saw my dad laying in the bed: skinny, weak and with oxygen in his nostrils. He cannot even get out of bed other than when Mom helps him just to use the commode next to his bed. That shows he is fighting. Most people would just have to have a catheter put in. I still wasn't prepared to see my dad this way.

As I drove to pick Fiona up for our run early Saturday morning, the radio played songs from the viewpoint of someone in heaven. It was hard to listen to and comforting at the same time. I just cried for my dad. No one should have to go through what he is going through.

During our run, I was sharing my Kleenex with Fiona (the unused ones). We were talking about her daughter’s 1st birthday party and how mom and dad wouldn't be there. It also brought conversation about how they’ll likely miss Jaycie’s 2nd in a few weeks. Not to mention that we will be running this marathon without Dad at the finish line for us - our motivation is in a hospital bed -- in the ICU. There’s a lot of emotion surrounding the situation. At the same time, we don't forget that there is much to be thankful for.

Later on that day, Rod and I stopped to visit Dad again on our way into Chicago to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. We also brought him Dreamsicles because he was craving them. He fed himself the Dreamsicles which was good to see. He just hasn't been eating and doctors are encouraging calories of any kind. The visit was good for Mom because she was able to visit with Jaycie and Nike in the waiting room while Rod and I visited with Dad. Our visit with Dad, unfortunately, was not quite as uplifting.

Dad seemed even weaker than the day before and today, he was just downright discouraged. He’s been fighting a resistant staff infection on top of everything else. In our conversations, he continues to inform us that he just cannot focus. His days and hours are all jumbled in his mind and he just wants to get out of that bed. It's extremely discouraging for him that he cannot walk and do more for himself. This is the first time he has not recovered quickly from everything. When this whole battle started in February, he continued to beat one thing after another and really never had to be down for an extended period of time. Now, he can’t even really focus on beating the cancer until he beats this infection. He is weak and in pain. He has a terrible rash on his back and his body is full of fluid. Today, they are talking about bringing in some physical therapists to try to help him get on his feet again. This is what he really wants so I’m certain he’ll do whatever he possibly can -- even if that means using a walker.

Once again, I couldn’t really control the tears as I left the hospital on Saturday. I lost it before I even left the room -- telling Dad that I love him and I just want him home with us. Later, I told Rod that I’m not really sure why I’m even asking him to fight. Who would want to stay here in this world when we know the other option is heaven? My heart hurts for my dad. I know he is fighting for us. I’m grateful but hurting that he’s in so much pain and confusion.

God still provides me with peace as I pray about the situation. It may be peace that He will heal dad or it may just be peace that he will take care of us. Either way, there is peace in my soul when I pray.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Matthew 6:33-34

Matthew 6:33-34 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Every time the phone rings I find myself holding my breath. One day there is good news to report on Dad’s condition. The next day I find myself fighting off tears all day long from the news of the latest battles he has to fight.

Today is one of those days to fight off tears. Mom called first thing this morning to inform me of the infection my dad came down with in the middle of the night. Hearing her voice shake on the phone as she attempts not to cry is always difficult to listen to. I proceeded to call my maternal grandparents, at her request, and inform them of the situation. My instructions were to inform them of the changes in Dad’s condition but at the same time help them realize they need not worry. If she were to call, they would hear the emotion in her voice and want to rush in to visit. My grandpa, especially, feels the need to worry. He’s 80+ years old and shouldn’t have to see his daughter and son-in-law go through this kind of thing. I think his worry is a bit justified.

The appeals for property taxes are due on Monday. My parents’ property is currently under appeal with the State for last year’s tax assessment. Now, they need to appeal again with the County for this year's taxes. This time, while my dad is in the Intensive Care Unit fighting for his life. My mom has put hours and hours into fighting this outrageous assessment. How do we fight for her and not undo everything she’s worked so hard for? Overwhelmed does not even begin to describe the way I feel with this burden.

I spent this past Monday evening gardening. I went to my parents’ and harvested sweet corn and squash. The sweet corn had to be husked, boiled, cut off the cob and frozen. The squash just had to wait. I was only up until midnight with just two buckets of corn. I never mind enjoying the benefits of my parents’ labor but at times like this, I wonder if it’s just better to buy the vegetables at the supermarket. I do know that this is what Dad desires right now and it enables Mom to stay at the hospital with him. I just have to suck it up that I haven’t been to see my dad in quite a while. This is what they need right now.

Then there’s the mowing at their house; making sure the pumpkins and gourds aren’t rotting inside their house; harvesting the rest of the pumpkins, gourds, squash, corn and anything else that might be remaining in the garden before it rots.

There’s my own house; dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc.; training for the marathon; watching what I eat; my marriage; being a mom.

I realize, that today is one day. That’s all I need to get through. Tomorrow can be dealt with when tomorrow comes. And the future will wait.

Any advice for raising my girls in the midst of all this? It seems as though I am yelling all the time. The girls seem to be fighting all day long and I don't even know how to go about stopping the whining. It's endless and I'm tired. I feel like I’m failing – BIG TIME.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The 20-Miler

Yesterday was my longest run yet – 20-miles. I left my house at about 4:45 a.m. and didn’t return home until 10 hours later. The run was along the lakefront in the City of Chicago so we had to factor in the commute. It took me just minutes over 4 hours to complete the 20 miles. My knees are sore but otherwise, I’m feeling good. There are only 3 more weeks until the marathon and we are now tapering down for the event!

I am reminded of how I really do enjoy the runner’s high that comes after a good run! It is absolutely beautiful to run along the lakefront and we had absolutely gorgeous weather! Our muscles were not really wanting to cooperate in the beginning due to the cold. However, once that sun started to shine, it was the perfect running day! We started our run around 7:00 a.m. at Wilson Avenue and did our 6:2 interval all the way out to a half mile past The McCormick Place. At that point, we turned around and completed our run back at the start which became our finish line. Our coaches and the staff of Team in Training had pictures of some patient honorees at the finish line. It really does change a person's mentality when training for an event like this when there is a cause behind it. Those 4 hours went by with only one moment that I found myself telling Fiona we needed to find something to talk about because my body didn't want to keep up.

Just as we were leaving the City, I called home to check on things. Rod informed me that my mom had called to say Dad was out of surgery about 10 minutes prior. He had tubes put into his chest to drain the fluid from around his heart. Doctors have expressed concerned about this fluid since he’s been admitted. (They have already drained it once since he's been there). To prevent any future concerns with the fluid around his heart, they placed a hole in the sac around his heart. Supposedly, this sac where the fluid continues to accumulate is like your appendix. God did give it to us for some reason but doctors aren’t exactly sure why and they do know we can live without it.

The last report I had around 8:00 p.m. last night was that the hospital was managing his pain and he was doing what he could to stay hydrated. To my knowledge, the Ommaya Reservoir will not be put into his head afterall. Instead, chemotherapy will be administered into his spinal fluid directly. He is much more at ease with this decision. In my opinion, as long as he wants to fight and they don't see a huge difference in the outcome, let the man fight. I’m grateful he wants to fight. His doctor told him he believes either process will attain the same goal.

The pain in my knees is like a pinch of your skin. It is so minor compared to what my dad is going through. I am continuing with my challenge as he continues to fight his.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Life Goes On

Last night, the girls and I headed to Mokena to pick some pumpkins and gourds from my parents’ garden. We met Fiona and the girls there and my mom happened to be home. Nikelle ran to my mom and gave her a hug as Jaycie yelled “Ga Ga” when she saw her. I really think it was good for everyone involved.

It was a different year. Papa is normally there directing the harvest when we go. This year, a video camera is the only way he will be able to share in the experience. Right on cue, Maty and Nike told Papa they loved him and want him to get better to be with us. I’m glad they are young and don’t have to completely understand what is happening around them.

Traci and Sabrina went to visit my Dad last night and from what mom said when he called, his spirits were lifted. His best friend, Steve, who should allow my dad some good laughs, followed up their visit.

I’ve heard people talk about how life doesn’t stop when we experience tribulations like this. It’s a strange feeling. Driving home last night, I realized I had told Rod I would prepare a taco salad for him to take to work today. It completely slipped my mind. Looking in my rearview mirror, Nike was asleep and it was already 8:00 at night. I really didn’t feel like making any kind of meal at this point. That’s why Rod was picking up a pizza. Was it really already Friday? He said he’d figure something out on his way to work. Thank God for a husband who is understanding and lenient.

As life continues around us today, Dad will be having surgery to insert the Ommaya Reservoir into his brain. I will be drinking a lot of water and watching what I eat (unlike the pizza and cookies I ate last night) (thanks Nell -- for the cookies!) as I prepare for my 20-mile training run on Saturday morning. Not to mention, I'll be going to bed when the sun is barely down so I can get enough rest!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Solid Rock

As we were driving to the hospital to visit Dad Friday night, I was writing down verses on "hope" to give to my parents. Rod began to say the words to the hymn "Solid Rock". I have the music to this song playing in the background right now and it's quite comforting.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly trust in Jesus' name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,Support me in the whelming flood.

When all around my soul gives way,He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,Oh may I then in Him be found.

Dressed in His righteousness alone,Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

A Journal Entry

Yesterday, we received news that the cancer has spread to Dad's bone marrow. That was not the case when he was diagnosed in February and it is really hard to comprehend how it could spread so quickly. He was just declared "cancer free" back in March or April. We've only been waiting for his blood counts to go up to where they should be so he could have the bone marrow harvest and transplant. This is all just so hard to wrap my mind around. The past couple of days I have found myself continually in a pool of tears. There just seems to be no way to control my emotions.

I feel bad because both Jaycie and Nikelle are noticing my sadness. I don't want them to experience life like that. Jaycie looked at me yesterday and made a sad face. I watched her expression and said, "Is Mommy sad?". She shook her head and walked away. Nikelle continually gives me hugs and last night as she was getting ready for bed, she came into my room to check on me. "Are you going to be o.k., Mom?" I tried to muster a smile as I said, "I will be. God gave you and Jaycie to me and that makes me happy." She walked away only to come find me in my bathroom a couple minutes later. "I just wanted to give you another hug." As I hugged her tightly, I was reminded of how much I truly have to be grateful for.

Today I pulled out my journal to write down some thoughts and pray. I found an entry from back in Februrary when dad was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma. Here is that journal entry:

"No matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for. The goal is to grow [deeper] in character, in Christ-likedness." - Rick Warren

"You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is 'my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others."

There are times that the gravity of Dad's disease hits me so hard that I feel sick to my stomach. I need to remember where my hope lies. Stay focused on God!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Illinois v. Western

I find myself continually struggling with my emotions and my thoughts. I can be distracted for a while -- especially with sleep. It seems like for a few minutes I can forget about the fight dad is enduring and just rest. I told Rod on Saturday that there is no better feeling than my head to a pillow and that is so true!

Rod and I attended the Illinois v. Western football game at the University of Illinois in Champaign on Saturday. Often, he and his dad will attend the Illini football games together. For this game, his dad is on an Alaskan cruise with his mom. Knowing how important it was to him to attend this game, I volunteered to go along.

Western Illinois was the first college Rod attended. He met a lifelong friend there who impressed upon him the importance of having a relationship with Jesus. Macomb, Illinois is where Rod’s life changed for the better. After two years, Rod transferred to the University of Illinois. The U of I was where he had first applied and where there is some family loyalty.

To say Rod was thrilled to attend this football game is an understatement. We sat down in a section surrounded by orange. One man turned to us with a look of disappointment. Trying to evade the question, I pointed to Rod’s purple Western, Illinois t-shirt and his University of Illinois baseball cap explaining, “he’s confused”.

I had no idea who to cheer for. Rod has taught me in our 11 years of marriage to root for the Illini but he just clapped for every play on the field. The Illini won 21-0. Rod would’ve liked the underdog to win but was content with a win for his Illini team.

As we sat and watched the game, there was an older couple sitting in their bleacher seats two rows in front of us. The woman had her arm draped behind her husband’s back and just rubbed his love handles (do they call them that with a man?) with her fingers. I think she did this for the entire second half! Pointing it out to my husband, I thought about the future. I pray that Rod and I have a sincere, deep and lasting love that would put us at a football game enjoying one another’s presence when we are old and gray. He’s my best friend and I am so grateful for the love God has given us.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Banco Popular Chicago Half Marathon

Yesterday, my sister-in-law, Fiona and I ran the Banco Popular Chicago Half Marathon. I had run this marathon back in 2004 but it had an entirely different feel to it this year. In 2004, I had Rod and my parents, sister, niece, brother, Fiona, in-laws, and Nikelle all there cheering me on. This year, Fiona was running with me and we had no one on the sidelines because this is just another training for our big event in October.

Running the half felt good. We did a 6:2 interval (ran 6 minutes: walked 2 minutes) throughout the event. At 2 miles remaining, Fiona was not feeling well and told me to go ahead and we’d meet at the finish line. I remember wondering where the finish line was in 2004. I was so exhausted and couldn’t wait to get done. How different to be able to speed up and complete the event strong this year. Even though Fiona wasn’t feeling well, she only finished about 2 minutes behind me. What an incredible feeling to have this event down and know the marathon is only 4 weeks away.

Stretching before we got in the car to go home, I struggled with my emotions. Running just for the fun of it would be nice. With Dad back in the hospital right now, our inspiration is all to clear.

I’ve been imagining the completion of the marathon. Everyone there cheering me on: Rod, the girls, my brother, possibly my sister and some of her kids, some friends, my parents, Rod’s parents, more family.

Dad hugging me at the finish line of the marathon is something I continue to picture in my mind. Not likely. Now he’s fighting for his life.

Currently, Dad is in the intensive care unit. Mom said it’s a good thing that he’s there. If he’s in the heart ward they’re overly concerned about his heart. If he’s in the cancer ward, they’re not concerned enough about his heart. In the ICU, they’ll be giving both the cancer and his heart the attention that is needed.

Fluid continues to build around his heart. As Fiona explained it to me (she went to school for nursing), with the lymph nodes working so hard, that is where the extra fluid is coming from. They drained the fluid a couple of days ago and complications followed. Now they are telling him if the chemotherapy he is currently on doesn’t reduce the amount of fluid, they will have to do open heart surgery to fix the situation.

I find myself shaking my head a lot. How can the cancer be back? He seemed so healthy for a while. This really is an aggressive disease. It’s scary. I refuse to be consumed with it and I am so glad that I am able to invest my energies into the marathon to cope with the situation.

There is a big concern with what is going on with his eye, too. We know something isn’t right because his eye has been protruding out of the socket. However, doctors just don’t give many details. They still haven’t said directly, “the lymphoma has returned”. They just tell him that they’ve found “blasts” in the fluid around his heart. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma so the blasts must be part of that cancer.

Mind-boggling. Complicated is the word my mom uses to describe the situation. Everything is just complicated. We really don’t know what is going on. So I look up Bible verses on hope. In Romans 5:5, the Bible says that hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. And Romans 12:12 tells us to
be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Joyful in hope.
Patient in affliction.
Faithful in prayer.

Pretty applicable for my life at this moment.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

It is Hard

This morning I missed a phone call from my mom. She left a message that my dad had an “eventful night” last night. I tried calling her at the hospital to see what was going on and she informed me that he had an allergic reaction to the morphine. His blood pressure dropped to 40/30 and at some time, he had no pulse. She couldn’t talk because the doctor had just come in to the room and said she’d call me back.

When she returned the call, Mom put Dad on the phone to relay the events of the night. I have such mixed emotions when I listen to him. He always speaks with such doom and gloom. He said, “I thought I wasn’t going to make it last night”. I told him, “but you did”. “We don’t know what the future holds” was his response. It’s so difficult to remain positive around him. I love him but wish my heart could go back to the way it was when I was younger. I was always “Daddy’s little girl” and he could do no wrong in my eyes. It was always my goal to please him and holding his hand and being with him was such a highlight for me when we’d go out somewhere. My struggle now is with seeing him as a husband to my mom and a son to my grandma and just the flaws that are highlighted in his being a human being.

All the details are scary. There is fluid around my dad’s heart. They have to do a cardio echogram to determine where the fluid is coming from. A needle biopsy will be done of the lymph nodes that are swelling which could mean the cancer is back. The biopsy will determine if it is “Sweet’s Disease” or if they need to do more testing. He also has a tiny blood clot in his lung that would’ve killed him if it were larger. It’s still a waiting game as we look to hear the results of all these tests.

My focus right now needs to be on thanking God that I still have a dad with me rather than on the fact that he could’ve died last night. I was told this weekend (by an extended cousin of Rod’s that lost her husband to a sudden heart attack a couple years ago) that it’s just hard. Every day is hard. It gives me some comfort to know that although I’m finding it difficult accepting this reality of life, it is hard and that is o.k.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Farm and Prayer

This past weekend we went camping at “The Farm”. The farm is the name my dad affectionately gave some property our family owns in Iroquois, Illinois. It’s so peaceful camping there. The stars as so vast and beautiful. The kids can be as loud as they like because there are no neighbors to bother nearby. Pup can come with and run free because there is so much land to explore. We haven’t had many trips there but the few taken have been quite enjoyable.

This weekend, Rod, the girls and I were the only ones camping overnight with my parents. Saturday night left a lot of room for thinking. I can never sleep very well when we are camping. Waking around 11:30 p.m., I heard moaning and groaning. When I realized where the sounds were coming from, holding back the tears was next to impossible. Dad was outside trying to walk around and work out some pain he was feeling.

I have to admit that I’ve wondered how terrible the pain is that he’s been experiencing. It is somewhat of a family trait to complain and look for sympathy. This night was a revelation for me because I knew he had no idea that I was awake inside my tent listening and praying. That’s all I could do. Mom had already informed me that nothing could be done to help him so I didn’t even attempt to go outside and offer. Praying myself back to sleep, I thought maybe he was able to get some rest as I awoke again earlier in the morning.

Numerous times I was up comforting Jaycie as she just could not get settled until I snuggled her in between Rod and I. Each time I prayed for my parents.

Early Sunday morning around the campfire, Dad talked to me about the pain he endured during the night. He informed me that on a scale of 1-10, this pain was “off the charts”. He didn’t get rest as I had hoped. Rather, he kept himself inside his van so he wouldn’t wake us with his screams from the pain he suffered.

In some ways, I suppose this was a good weekend for me to experience. Once again, I am impressed with the weight of what my parents are dealing with on a daily basis. I am often able to go home and live my life as though all were well. Not at this time, however. The moans, his swollen eye, his shaking hands and legs; they are all embedded in my mind. All I can do is pray for him.

So as I fall asleep at night, that’s what I do. I pray for my dad. Selfishly, maybe: I don’t want to think about how my life will change if Dad is no longer here on this earth.