Monday, December 24, 2012

Oh Holy Night

Well, it’s Christmas Eve and David and I are driving to Pittsburgh, PA! We enjoyed the services at Northstar so much and hit the road afterwards! We will get in late, but I am really looking forward to spending Christmas with the Vogel family! This will be my first Vogel Christmas! I am so thankful to have two families to spend the holidays with!

I have always loved the holidays, and this year has been no exception. However, this season of our lives has been hard, to say the least. I would be lying to you if I said I haven’t been struggling over these past few weeks. I have questioned, doubted, been angry, cried, and been downright depressed at times.

Our visit to Vanderbilt was so encouraging. God really has paved the way for us. However, the reality of what we’re facing has crippled me at times. My longing to be a mother has not decreased, and my desire to live a long life of ministry with my husband is not diminished. These longings and desires tug at my heart and make me ache. Sometimes I find myself in complete shock. How did we even get here? 

My husband is amazing and talks through everything with me. He doesn’t judge me when I question. He is patient with me when I fall apart. He encourages me and reminds me to hope. He reminds me to “put on a garment of praise.”

Praising God in the midst of our storm has not been the easiest thing. I try desperately to tell God how much I adore Him, how much I trust Him, how much I love Him. Sometimes I struggle to quiet the questions I really want to ask God. The hurt feelings that I cannot hide.

“Why, why am I in this place?”
“Why haven’t you spared me from this?”
“It isn’t fair!”
“Where are you?” “Have you abandoned me?”
“Do you even love me?”
“Have you forgotten me?”

In one of my recent inner temper tantrums, I was reminded of the concept of advent. We have taught our preschoolers a lot this year about the importance of advent. The anticipation and waiting for Christ to come.

Just imagine the Jews in bible times waiting and waiting and waiting for a Savior. They knew He could come at any time. They put all of their hope in Him. When that child was born in a tiny manger, all of their hopes and dreams were fulfilled. I’m sure there were times though that they doubted. They may have thought, “He’s never coming.” “God has forgotten us.” “Do you even love us?” “Why do we have to wait so long?” I’m sure there were people that questioned God’s timing and plan. “A manger? Really?” But the fact that Jesus was their Savior never changed, even when they didn’t understand. Even when they didn’t see Him.

I do not understand why I must fight this disease while others don’t. I do not understand why the chemo didn’t work. I do not understand why I have to have a stem cell transplant and why my dreams of being a young mother are vanishing before my eyes. I may never know. As much as I want it to, it just doesn’t make sense

However, the fact that Jesus is my savior will never change. The fact that all of my hope is in Him is constant…no matter what my circumstances. I don't know why God allows certain things to happen, but I know that Jesus is my Savior. I know that the only real hope I have in all of this is Jesus. Whether He chooses to heal me in this life or not, my only hope is Jesus.

I will continue to offer a sacrifice of praise. I must trust the one who placed the stars in the sky. My Savior has come. He was born and died in my place so that I may live.

This Christmas remember that you do not have to wait! The long-awaited Messiah has already come! Praise the one who fulfilled all of our hopes and dreams on that holy night so long ago.

“O holy night the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til he appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees oh hear the angel voices. Oh night divine, oh night when Christ was born. Oh night divine, oh night oh night divine.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Way Through

 I am so sorry it has taken this long for me to post! I have been trying to process everything and figure out the easiest way to communicate a LOT of information!

Well, our trip to Nashville was a very successful one! We met with the director of stem cell transplants at Vanderbilt and God really showed up in a big way!

I was in a pretty low place. I knew that I needed to trust God, but thoughts of my future brought so much pain with them because we didn't know what would happen.

The truth is, my circumstances have not really changed. My diagnosis is the same, I still have some rough treatments ahead of me, and my body is about to go through some hard things.

I had been praying so desperately for complete healing and a way out. However, I believe now that God is giving me a way through, and I am still believing He will grant me complete healing.

Every single fear I had about my upcoming treatments was mitigated on Monday. Literally every thing that caused me stress was addressed.

Let me explain it the best way I can.

Basically I have what is called refractory Hodgkins disease (Disease that resisted treatment).

My cancer cells were smart and figured out a way to literally "spit" the chemo back out and survive. I hate them...

We have to go through treatments to try and kill the remaining cancer cells. Then we will do a stem cell transplant in order to completely restart my immune system and hopefully cure me for good.

I thought I would have to go through intense chemo for the first part. this would mean losing my hair again and being very sick.


Because Vanderbilt is a research hospital, they have knowledge of newer drugs. There is a drug called Bruntuximab (or something close to this) that has been approved in the last two years to treat refractory Hodgkins.
It is what the doctor called a "smart drug." It will literally attack only the cancer cells and create a barrier around them so they can't "spit" it out. I will undergo 3 treatments of this drug in hopes of getting a clean PET scan. This will be done outpatient and there are minimal side effects! No nausea, no hair loss, no fatigue, NOTHING! He said I may get tingling and numbness in my fingers, but hey I'll take that any day!

If I get a clean PET scan, then we move on to the stem cell transplant.

I was very nervous about this procedure. Everything I had read said that I would be in isolation for a month and I would be homebound for a long time after that. I thought I'd have to take time off from preschool and miss a ton of time from my job while recovering. NOT TRUE!

Vanderbilt has pretty much mastered the art of autologous stem cell transplants enough for us to be able to do all of the procedures OUTPATIENT!!! I will stay in Nashville, and will come to the clinic everyday, but as long as I don't get an infection, I shouldn't need to be admitted to the hospital. This will be a tough procedure. I will still get an extremely high dose of chemo before the transplant (yes I will lose my hair at this point), but it will not be nearly as bad as we thought.

After the transplant, he said I'd need to be cautious with germs, but he didn't want me to take time off of my job or working with children. PRAISE THE LORD!

If any of these treatments don't work, he said "don't lose your heart" we have other options.

He also said that we could take a few weeks before we started treatment to look at options for fertility preservation. I am so thankful for this opportunity!

I will most likely start treatments with the new drug in January and if everything goes according to plan, will be finished with the whole process in June 2013. This means we get to enjoy Christmas!

God is good! Continue to pray that He will order our steps and lead us to the right places in order to kill this cancer AND have a family.

I am so thankful that God stepped in and provided us with hope and a way through the wilderness. We truly feel like He has ordered our steps and are asking Him to continue to do so!

He truly does care for us and works EVERYTHING together for the good of those who love him!

Thank you to everyone for your prayers and support! They mean the world to us!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Always Thankful

Well, to say the past two weeks have been hard would be an understatement. Never in my life have I spent this much time crying or praising. Never have I cried out this desperately to God.

I've told several people that it feels like I've been in mourning since last Thursday. I've been mourning my hopes and dreams. I've been mourning the life that David and I could have had if cancer hadn't reared its ugly head.

HOWEVER, we don't know what the future holds, but we do know one thing.

God is our provider.

He always provides for us. I am praying that He will still provide us with a way of escape from this disease, even a way out of these terrible treatments.

And I know another thing...

I'm tired of mourning. I'm tired of crying. I'm tired of being afraid.

In one way or another, God will rescue me.

Today is Thanksgiving and I choose joy. I choose to be thankful because the truth is, I have SO MUCH to be thankful for.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

~ Philippians 4: 6-7

We are to rejoice ALWAYS in the Lord! We present our requests with THANKSGIVING! It doesn't matter how hard things are, I choose to rejoice and be thankful. God will take care of the rest.

This year I am thankful for...

~The nearness of God and His incredible gift of salvation.
~My amazing husband. What an incredible gift you are.
~My wonderful family and extended family.
~Our second family at Northstar. I couldn't ask for better community.
~My friends both near and far.
~My fellow preschool director who has walked every step of this journey with me.
~The leadership at our church and spiritual guidance from so many in my life.
~The Lord's provision for our physical needs.
~The mountains of East Tennessee and our beautiful home.
~The best next door neightbors around.
~My jobs. I truly love what I do.

God really has been good to me. I could go on and on. I am truly thankful!

I hope everyone out there has a wonderful Thanksgiving! Take time to rejoice and be thankful today!

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Down but Not Out

I'm not going to go into too much detail on this post because there is still a lot we don't know.

Unfortunately, my biopsy results came back as Hodgkins. This means the ABVD chemo did not completely work. It killed most of the tumors and shrunk them down considerably, but somehow there is still disease left over.

This outcome is not what we had hoped for and not what we were expecting.

We are headed to Vanderbilt on the Monday after Thanksgiving for a second opinion. Most likely we are looking at some intense chemo and a stem cell transplant, but we don't know for sure.

We are fervently praying that God would give the doctors wisdom and complete the healing He already started. We are also praying that by some miracle we will be able to have children some day. Nothing is impossible.

The past few days have been pretty intense. We are heart-broken and disappointed. We feel helpless and out of control. We are down, but not out.

I am trying desperately to hold onto this passage of scripture.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

It would be easy to believe at this point that God is not good. That He does not want good things for me or a future. But this is not true.

No, we don't understand. Yes, we are scared. No, we don't know what the future holds. Yes, our dreams have come crashing down.

But God is still good.

He still wants good things for me.

He still has a future planned for me.

He could still rescue me.

He can still heal me.

Our circumstances do not change the truth of God's word.

God is for us, not against us.

We are down.......but we are definitely not out.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Plea for Prayer

Well... I had hoped that this post would contain very different news.

I would love to tell you that my PET scan was clean and I'm in remission, but unfortuantely it was not.

The scan showed some active tumors in my neck and chest.

There is a possibility that these active spots are simply granulomas or inflammation left over from the chemo.

If this is the case, then we will simply wait longer and they will dissipate on their own.

There is a possibility that these active spots are leftover Hodgkins Disease making the treatments I've undergone for the past 6 months not completely effective.

If this is the case, then we are facing some pretty intense, life-altering treatments including a different type of chemo and a stem cell transplant.

Before any action is taken, I will undergo a biopsy on Monday to determine what the spots are. I will receive the answer Thursday at a doctor's appointment.

This news was not expected and has caused us to cling tighter to our God. My head has been spinning, but through much prayer, time with family, and encouraging words from others, I feel there is a third possibility.

God is capable of raising people from the dead, walking on water, and healing disease. He is capable of making blind men see and lame men walk. All it takes is faith.

I stand in faith and believe that God can heal me. God can take away these "active spots" whatever they are before I go to the biopsy on Monday. It is my prayer that they will do the sonogram to find the spots to biopsy and they will be completely gone! He has confirmed to me over and over again that He will never leave me or forsake me. He will rescue me and heal me. And while I don't know what his perfect plan for my life is, I know that prayer is important.

I realize that God may choose not to do this. His ways are higher than mine. However, he says in His word to "seek and we will find. Knock and the door will be open." In the parable of the persistent widow, God says, "will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?"

I am asking you to cry out day and night on my behalf. When the woman reached out and touched Jesus robe, he told her "daughter your faith has healed you."  Please stand with me in faith that God can heal me.

Please take the next few days to persistently pray for my healing. Pray that my faith may increase. Pray that these spots would be gone on Monday. Pray that only He will get the glory for my life. Pray that God would hear our cries and grant me mercy and a life of ministry and family with my husband.

I believe that there is power in the prayers of the saints. Trust the Lord with me to heal my body completely in the name of Jesus so that only He can get credit.

Please share this post with as many people as you can and begin praying....

God is good all the time and He is still on the throne no matter what the outcome. I thank you in advance for being persistent with me.

Monday, October 22, 2012


So I haven't posted in a while because I have been enjoying my break from treatments so much! October has been so good to me! We've opened a new kids building at church, we've spent time with Shanna and Kyle, we've spent time with Kerith and Grandma, we went to a pumpkin patch, we carved pumpkins, we've spent several date nights down in market square, we ran a 5K! I just love fall!

I can report that I feel fantastic and have a ton of energy! God is so good to me!

God has been doing so much in me over the past month since I had my last treatment.

As I started out, I was just so excited for things to go back to "normal."

I became extremely focused on losing weight, growing my hair back, praying for God to bring a child into our lives....

I focused my energy on these things. I began dreaming again, making checklists, and making plans.

Then on Saturday, I received a heavy dose of reality. I was very vividly reminded that my journey with cancer is not over yet.

I am still awaiting a scan. I am still recovering. I am not "in the clear yet."

I was crushed as I felt my dreams shattering again. The harsh questions that popped into my mind.

What if it's not completely gone?
What if it comes back?
What if my body never fully recovers?
What if I am never able to have children?
What about long-term side effects?
What if I need more treatments? Different treatments?
What if more people that I love get cancer?

I realized that  God knows the answers to these questions, and I don't. Doctors don't. My friends don't. The google people don't.

This journey is not over yet. How quickly I began making my own plans again. How quickly I began building my kingdom and forgetting that my plans will always crumble because they are merely sand and water next to the plans of the Rock of Ages.

I need not be afraid, simply trust.

Instead of my fearful questions, I will focus on a different set of questions. Here are a few questions that Lord asks in Job that have spoken to my heart. (and no, I in NO WAY think I have suffered like Job did, this is just a good reminder for everyone!)

Job 38(paraphrased)
"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Who marked off its dimensions?
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth?
Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?
Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom?
Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?

I don't know about you, but I can answer "no" to each and every one of these plus the many, many more found in Job.

I choose to trust the one who answers "yes" to these questions.

Friday, September 28, 2012

We Made it!!!! Twelth and Final Chemo is Complete!

Well friends ... on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 I completed my 12th round of chemo!!!
 This is me on the way! Super pumped! And yes my hair is starting to grow back a little! I can't wait to have hair again!

I had some very special friends visit! Thank you Jess, Sarah, and Laura! You made the day so much more enjoyable!!! I don't know what I'd do without you girls!
 And here's a special picture of Sarah! I know she'll love it!

I received beautiful flowers from my team at work!

I got cards in the mail, many encouraging texts, and flowers and icecream from Lana and Matt!

Plus...the Fall Fairies (aka Brittany and Nick) visited my house while I was gone and made. my. day.

I mean really?! How amazing are these people?!

My friend Shanna even provided me with magazines for entertainment.

What an amazing support system I have!

I even received a certificate of completion from the amazing staff at Thompson Cancer Survival Center.

Even though I am truly happy to be done, I will miss my amazing nurses!

Needless to say, it was a pretty amazing day. I am in the process of recovering and in 5 weeks I will get a pet scan on November 1st.

On November 7th we will find out the results....If the scan is clean, which is our prayer, then I will be in remission! Woo hoo!

If it's not clean, then I may have to undergo additional treatments or radiation.

I've been thinking a lot about what this means that I am finished with treatments. I am beyond thrilled to not have to get poked and have poison go in my veins every other week, but I'm having to fight a lot of fear as well.

I'm afraid to completely celebrate until we get a clean pet scan.
I'm afraid that we'll get through all of this and then the cancer will come back.
I'm afraid it will take me longer than I want to recover.

I told my mom yesterday that the 12 treatments were like climbing a mountain.

I had this huge obstacle in front of me that I had to get over. Even though it was a big mountain, I knew what it looked like. I had a very specific task in front of me. et through 12 treatments.

Check! Now what?

Now that the mountain is behind me, I don't know what the path ahead looks like...which is a bit scary.

But whenever I get in places like this, I have to fall back on truth.

Truth #1: Fear is NOT of God. (Did you know God tells us to "Not be afraid" 365 times in the bible!)
Truth #2: God has protected me thus far, He will continue to protect me.
Truth #3: My life is not my own. My purpose is to glorify my maker, no matter what that means.
Truth #4: We are trusting God for COMPLETE HEALING!!!

Pray and believe with me that this thing is finished. I would like to spend the month of October recovering, losing weight, growing back hair, and enjoying the Fall! Not worrying about the future.

I love all of you and am so thankful for all the support.

This is the last time you'll see this banner! It will get torn down very soon!
12 down, 0 to go!!!!! :-) Complete Healing!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Round 11!

Well, I made it through another round! We are getting so close!

Round 11 is finished and I officially have ONE ROUND LEFT! Woo Hoo!

                                                I had to borrow David's finger for this one!

Here are the pups that come visit on Thursdays at the infusion center. They are so cute.
                                                                 Roxy and Ginger!

I can't tell you how ready I am to finish these treatments and move on with our lives!

Here's the time line:

Wednesday, September 26th: FINAL TREATMENT
Soon thereafter: Celebration!
5 Weeks later: PET scan
6 Weeks later: Doctor's appointment where pte scan is read and found to be CLEAN!
6 Weeks and 1 day later: Begin living life cancer free!!!!

Lately we have been spending a lot of time at Concord park. We love to run the mountain trails and they just opened a new dog park complete with doggy dock on the lake. We decided to throw Chloe in the water and she did SO WELL! We have a little swimmer! She would even go get a ball that we threw in the lake! (Note: Bonnie is no where to be seen...she's not exactly a water dog!)

This last week was crazy busy! I had a huge deadline at work, I had chemo on Thursday, and my friend Sarah's wedding was on Saturday!

This week was also really tough. I found out that someone else I know may be facing Hodgkins. I can't tell you how much my heart broke for this sweet person. I feel like I have come so far and I can't imagine being back in that scary place we were in this past April. I was completely broken and praying this past week and I decided to seek. I opened my bible and it "just happened" to fall open to the 8th chapter of Luke.

The first verse I read was "Daughter, your faith has healed you." This comes from the story of the woman who had been bleeding for years. She touched Jesus's robe and was instantly healed. In this verse, Jesus made it clear that it wasn't some magical power, amazing medicine, or well-known doctor that healed her. It was her own faith. I pray that at the end of this God would say this very thing to me.

The very next story in the chapter is about Jarius's daughter who was dead. Jesus said to them, "Don't be afraid, just believe and she will be healed."

My heart stirred so much with this word. My friend will be healed and we do not need to be afraid.

The healing power of Christ comes from our own belief; our own faith.

If you are in need of healing in your life, take the first step...believe. Your faith will heal you.

11 down, 1 to go!!!!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Round 10...Double digits!

So I am a week out now from my 10th chemo treatment and I'm finally feeling normal again. :-)

I am so excited that I am in the double digits now! This treatment was relatively uneventful, so I'll take that!

I have neglected my blog a bit lately because I honestly have just been so, so busy!

I spent a weekend in Charleston, had my 10th chemo treatment, celebrated David's birthday, have written tons of curriculum, celebrated Labor Day with my family, and prepared for a new unit in preschool! Phew! Life is good!

Here's the birthday boy! Isn't he handsome?
Here's a closeup of the fantastic funfetti cake I made...definitely not on the diet!

God has been speaking to me so much lately. I wanted to share with you all a little of what's been on my heart.

I grew up in the church and am so blessed to have known the Lord for a long time. I have been in ministry of some sort for many years, but I want to be honest with you and tell you that I have not always been very bold about sharing the gospel. Mostly just because I don't like stepping on people's toes and I don't love confrontation.

On my drive to Charleston, my sweet friend Lana shared with me about a sermon she heard by Perry Noble at Newspring church.

There is a common saying out there that you may have heard before.
"Always share the gospel. When necessary use words."
While this statement is fine, it can serve as a cop out for many Christians.

The truth is, God tells us to "Go and make disciples of all nations." It's hard to make disciples without ever actually saying anything! This saying gives us an excuse to be silent which we should not take. Yes our actions should speak louder than our words, but that's not exactly hard to do if there are no words at all!

We need to ask people about their faith. We need to ask people if they know Christ! If we don't ask, we'll never know, and we may never have an opportunity to lead someone to an eternity with Jesus.

When Lana shared this message with me, I had such stirrings in my heart. I have always made it clear that I was a Christian, but have never been as bold as I wanted to be.

In a lot of ways, I feel like my cancer has given me that boldness. I have had SO many more opportunities to share my faith and what God has been doing in my life since I got my cancer diagnosis back in April.

I have recently found myself GRATEFUL that I have cancer. Yes, you read that correctly. I am truly grateful that I have cancer. It has made my marriage stronger, it has made my faith in God grow, and it has given me this amazing vehicle to share the gospel with friends, family, and even strangers.

God is so good to me. He loves me so much that He allowed me to go through this trial so that I could be closer to Him. And He loves the people in my life so much that He allowed me to go through this so I would be bold enough to share with them! What a responsibility!

God is good. If you don't know Him, you should ask about him. If you do know Him, share. Share with everyone you know what God has done for you. ASK people if they know who Jesus is! If you step on some toes, it's OK. Jesus stepped on quite a few toes in His day. :-)

People, I only have two treatments left. In less than 3 weeks I will have my last chemo treatment and will start the next phase of this journey. Continue to pray for complete healing!

10 down, 2 to go!!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Round 9....check!

Whew! I made it through another round, now comes the fun part, recovery! I can check off another number! ( I just love crossing things off lists!)

You are probably wondering how my two week challenge went. Well, the answer is great! I can officially say that I worked out every day for two weeks between my treatments.

The sad part is, I only lost 1 pound. :-(

However, I feel SO much stronger than I did before and I recovered from chemo so much faster.

I'm hoping to work out just as much this time around....and this time be a bit more disciplined with my diet.

The doctor said that even if I was doing everything perfectly right, it would be nearly impossble for me to drop a lot of weight right now. They give me steroids that cause you to retain and shift fluids around in your body. The hope is that once I'm done with chemo, the weight will fall off! That is...if I don't eat too many celebratory cupcakes! ;-)

So while I've been gaining and then maintaining my weight, my amazing husband has put me to shame and lost...wait for it...43 pounds!!! I'm so extremely proud of him and ready for the new healthy us! Just look at this guy!

This past Sunday we went on a 5 mile hike to Abrams Falls in Cade's Cove. It was lovely. The weather wasn't too hot, the hike was challenging enough, but not too bad, and the Falls were beautiful. It was so nice to get away an enjoy God's creation with my wonderful husband.

Ahhhh just look at that, doesn't it just make you feel calm and peaceful! I remember going on a hike when I was a camp counselor at Appalachian Christian Camp and Ryan Bader was the Dean. He told us that waterfalls were special because they weren't an absolute necessity. I mean, water needs to get from A to B, I get that, but God didn't have to make them so beautiful. He did so for our enjoyment. This is true about a lot of things in nature. We're so blessed to have a creator who loves us enough to give us pretty things to look at!

Some exciting things coming soon...we bought a sectional for our living room, my first attempt at making a piece of clothing for myself, and a refinished vintage phone table from the thrift store for our guest excited!

9 down, 3 to go!!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Better than a Fairy Tale

I went running this morning in my neighborhood and let me tell you, it felt good! I'm doing the couch to 5K program and week 1, day 1 is checked off! Woo hoo! Color Run here I come!

When you go running, it gives you some time to think. I spent a while praying to God and begging him to use my life for His glory. It pains me to think that I could waste even one moment that I could be helping others or telling people about Christ. Cancer sure puts things in perspective.

As always though, my mind wandered to the baby topic. It's literally on my mind and heart all the time. When I was a young girl somehow this dream got planted in my heart.  I wanted to grow up, go to college (It was UGA at the time), marry my handsome prince and have LOTS of babies. While that dream has shifted somewhat over the years, the basic principle was the same. Marriage and babies was my fairy tale.

As I grew up and went to high school and college I had my first defeat. I wasn't as pretty or popular as other girls and I didn't have any boyfriends. I had a few guys interested in me, but I didn't have a real boyfriend until I was in my twenties. I went through some dark times and God had to remind me that getting married was not my purpose in life. I was meant to serve Him first and foremost. Once I let go of that, I found David and I got to experience marraige and all the challenges and blessings that come with it.

So.....babies....yeah that was next. Well, cancer stepped in. I stress all the time about how long I have to wait and how I wish I could just fast forward two years and get on with things.

So as I was running I was doubly struck with this urgency to serve my God and this stress about having children and I realized something pretty powerful.

Yes, I want my fairy tale ending.
But you know what? I want Jesus more. 

I want Jesus more because He is better than any fairy tale. He is better than any dream house. He is better than any spouse or earthly fame. Jesus is better. He DIED on a cross for me and ROSE from the dead. He offers ETERNAL life and FREEDOM from sin! He is better.

If nothing else is certain in your life, trust this.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Round 8...can you believe it?!

This past Thursday I went in for round 8 of chemo! People, this means I only have 4 treatments left!

God is so good! When I'm in my good week, I forget that I even have cancer, that's how good I feel! And I totally love being bald! It's so easy!

My mom and Granny came for this round and I was so glad to spend some time with them. We did some shopping and crafting...pretty much two of my favorite things to do. Plus David's brother and mother are coming tonight for a little visit on Kemper's way back to college.

Life is good!

I have issued upon myself and my friend Sarah a two week challenge. I did some research and found that working out is supposed to help you feel better during chemo.

Basically, I receive the chemo and it does its job immediately. Then I need to get those toxins out of my body as quickly as possible to minimize side effects.

Three ways I'm trying to do that are:
1. Drinking a LOT of water
2. Eating foods rich in antioxidants such as spinach, blueberries, avocados etc.
3. Exercising and "sweating" out the toxins

I told myself that I would work out every day for the two weeks between my treatments (not on actual treatment days.)

Sarah and I walked for an hour on Friday night and did the elliptical at the gym for 35 minutes on Saturday. I'm going to try and go for at least a tiny walk tonight, but the weather doesn't look promising. Plus Sarah and I ran around the preschool for three services this morning, so I think that can count.

I'll let you know about my progress and if it helps or not! So far I've had two pretty bad nausea days, but we'll see how it goes.

I thank God every day for healing me and keeping me safe. As my David said, "If it weren't for the development of chemo, Leslie would be gone within this year." yeah...sobering thought....

Thank you, God for inspiring someone to develop chemo and allowing it to shrink my tumors! I get more time on this earth because of it. Now what will I do with that time?

"Lord please do not let my healed life go in vain. Give me opportunities to share your goodness and love with others. Use me to expand your kingdom and share your hope with the world."

8 down, 4 to go!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bald is back in!

Well... I did it. We did it, I should say.

The head is shaved!

My plan was to wait until the end of my treatments and shave whatever was left so that it would all grow back I was secretly afraid of what I would look like bald.

Well...I pretty much was starting to look like an elderly person, and the hair that was left was really damaged and got tangled all the time. Plus shedding ridiculous amounts of hair everywhere you go is kind of annoying.

So we did 11:00 last night.

My sweet husband shaved my head.

When I fell in love with this man 3 years ago, I never in my life thought that he would be helping me shave my head?! But he did, like a champ.

And I was not really emotional at all about it...until he looked at me with his sweet, soft eyes and said, "you're beautiful"  Then the tears came.

What an amazing man I have! I am so blessed to have a strong, courageous, God-fearing, loving partner by my side as I walk through this.

Happy Two Year Anniversary to my best friend!

Love You Babe!

Oh and I know you are wanting to see a picture, so here it is!!

Taken by the lovely Diana Christmas.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Results are in....

Drumroll please!!! The scan was good!!!

When I found out I had cancer, I had three main prayers that I asked the Father.

1) Please Lord don't let this ruin my fertitlity. Please bless us with Children.
2) Please Lord let the halfway scan come back completely clean!
3) Please Lord let me be able to announce at the Thanksgiving table that I am cancer free.

Aren't I polite? I always say please! While I have prayed many many things since then, these were my goals, so to speak.

Well, we got the scan results today at my doctor's appointment.

The results were good!! The CT scan is still abnormal and tissue can be seen where my tumors originally were. However, The amount of tissue has decreased by more than half for every spot! The official word is that I am showing "pronounced" response to treatment!

We of course asked about the tissue that is left and my doctor said that there is no way to tell on a CT scan whether the tissue is "alive" or "dead." He said that he thinks most of it is scar tissue and dead cells! I'll take it!

The Plan from here on out... 6 more treatments(including the one I had today.) We'll wait 5-6 weeks after the last treatment and do a pet scan.  A pet scan can detect the difference between live and dead cells, so we will know for sure. Then I will see a radiologist to get an opinion about whether or not I need radiation. We are praying AGAINST radiation. It increases my risk for thyroid and breast cancer and we DON'T want that if we can help it.

Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers. God is working to heal my body, but He's doing so much more than that!

My friend Andy always says "Complete Healing" when we talk about my cancer. What a great reminder. I desire for God to heal me much more than physically. I need emotional and spiritual healing as well.

Jesus died on the cross for us so that we could receive healing. It is a free gift from God that He offers EVERY one of His children.
It says in the Bible,"By His wounds we are healed."

You may not have cancer today, but you probably need some healing. Turn to the Father. Get on your face before Him and don't let his suffering have occurred in vain. His wounds are the only true way to receive healing...complete healing.

I pray that each day I come closer to receiving complete healing from the Lord, until that day when my healing will be completely fulfilled in Heaven. Cancer is just one more step on the journey.

Ask Him today for your own complete healing, and I would be happy to talk to you about it and pray with you!

Love in Christ!


7 down, 5 to go!!

P.P.S. My husband and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary last prepared for a sappy post in the near future. I love him ;-).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Halfway There!

I'm a little behind in posting this because my life has been kind of crazy lately.

We had such a wonderful time on New Jersey and it was pretty hard to come home! We came home and went directly to church so David could have practice and I could set up Preschool stuff for Sunday. My mom came in town and then Friday morning we woke up and went to chemo!

Round 6! Wahoo!!!

I Have been anticipating this treatment for a while. I am halfway finished and couldn't be happier about that.

With that being said, it was kind of a tough treatment. My body is not pleased with me. I feel like every cell in my body is screaming, "stop poisoning me!" Silly body, you shouldn't have gotten cancer and then I wouldn't have to poison you.

But I know that this is what I need to endure in order to be healthy again, so I continue on.

My doctor asked me on Friday, "So as this experience been easier or harder than you thought it would be?"

My answer: Physically it has been easier. I mean chemo is not fun, but I pictured myself bound to a couch and vomiting all day..neither of which has happened. I'm still able to work both of my jobs and go about my normal routine for the most part. (I am thankful though that at least one of my jobs does not require me to leave the couch.) Emotionally... Much harder than I thought.

Honestly, I am trying so hard to have a good attitude and trust the Lord, but some days are just hard!

I'm almost bald, I've gained 14 pounds, I feel awful every other week, all I want is to have a baby, and I'm just kind of over it! It's hard to not get sucked into the negative thoughts that make their way into my brain. However, I do have so much to be thankful for, and I've had to put into practice the whole "taking captive of your thoughts" discipline.

I was fed up this weekend and I turned to the Word. My bible flopped open to a passage that stated "be patient in affliction." Patience....yeah that's what I need!

So pray for me that I can tame these unruly thoughts and embrace patience as I trek forward!

I had my halfway CT scan today and will get the results next Thursday!!! Pray Pray Pray that it is completely clean! I am believing that God has already cleansed my body of this cancer!!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

6 down, 6 to go!

Monday, July 2, 2012

...but God is Good

"Lord you are good and your mercies endures forever."

I have been so enjoying my time with the Vogels and Stevensons here in New Jersey! David's family and extended family all congregate in Sea Isle City during the summer and enjoy the beach and a bounty of AMAZING food!

It's such a fun and relaxing time. I have really enjoyed spending quality time with everyone and am so thankful to get to be here!

On Saturday night we had our own little church service since Sunday would be spent on the beach.
Nothing was really prepared, we just went around and shared what God has been doing in our lives.

I loved hearing everyone's heart, but was especially touched by what Grandma had to say.

She shared how hard it's been since Papa died. She shared the lonliness she's felt and how much she's had to cry out and rely on God to get her through. The thing that stuck out to me the most though, was after every statement she stated, "but God is good."

What a sweet reminder that no matter what we face in our life, God is still good. His mercies and goodness endure forever.

As I encounter the struggles of this life and the difficulties that come from my circumstances, I can honestly tell you that I have been so sweetly reminded at every turn just how good God truly is.

I have cancer, but God is good.
I have to go through chemo, but God is good.
I have to wait for a long to time to have a baby, but God is good.
I am not in control of my circumstances, but God is still good.

God is always good.

I pray that I can gold onto this truth as I continue my journey. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Friends are Friends Forever

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”   ~C.S. Lewis

One thing that has made this journey bearable for me has been the presence of friends and family. For those of you who don't know me that well, I was a pretty dorky kid in high school. I never really felt like I fit in and I desperately longed for friendships that just never happened. However, when God brought me to Milligan College, I found so many forever friends. Since then, I have acquired quite an amazing group of people all over the place that I call friend and could count on in any situation. This journey with cancer has only affirmed what I already knew. I am blessed.

Today I'd like to highlight my Milligan friends for a moment.

Meredith, Jessica, and Ross came to visit me on Saturday. It was SO wonderful to see them and spend the day together. They brought with them this sweet blanket that Jessica and her mom made out of t-shirts and fabric from my college/ Johnson City friends! What an amazing gift!

I wanted to share with you all the squares that make up this quilt and a little about the people that made them because I am so blessed by each and every one of them!

 This square comes from my friend Hannah Beth! HB and I were both chosen to be resident chaplains for 3rd Floor Hart (Holla!) which brought us together. We are pretty opposite in a lot of ways, but we do share a love for music, the city of Atlanta, the mountains of East Tennessee, and a heart for ministry. HB has been such a great friend to me over the years and I love how confident she is and how earnestly she seeks the Lord. I wish we lived closer to one another!

This square comes from the one and only Meredith McKinney! (it has a pocket because Mer LOVES practical and useful!) One of my closest and dearest! I love this girl with my whole heart! Meredith and I sang in choir together and became very close during my Milligan years. Meredith's sweet family became sort of my surrogate family. They introduced me to Grandview church and always opened up their home to me and many other Milligan students. I respect them so much. Meredith as a heart for travel and missions and will be going to Scotland soon! I will miss her so much but am extremely proud of her for following God's call! You can read about her journey here.
This square comes from an incredibly wonderful family, the Baders! They all have touched me in so many ways. I first met Ross during my brief bout with musical theater in Oklahoma! (yow!) We have a ton in common and he quickly became one of my favorite people. He has been such a tried and true friend for me over the years and is extremely gifted in music. His mother, Tempa, let me live with her one summer when I interned at Grandview. Words cannot express the true compassion and strength found in this woman. She is loved by many and rightly so! I am so blessed to know her. I got to know Ross's brother, Ryan, sister-in-law, Beth, and nieces and nephew during my time at Grandview. What a wonderful, giving family! Ryan was one of the first people in my life to encourage me to pursue ministry and was always such an encouragement to me. Beth's sweet spirit and creativity has always inspired me, and their kids are the cutest!

This little square is from my Shanna. Shanna and I met at matriculation our very first day at Milligan college. She was wearing a dress with cherries on it and I complimented her on it. The rest was history! We became roommates by winter of freshman year and lived together the rest of my time there. Shanna is hilarious and has such a gift for encouraging others. I know that I can count on her no matter what, and I don't know what I would do without her!

I love this square from the Lawsons! I became friends with Heather and John during my junior year of college. They are so funny and welcoming! I have watched them endure such hardship and they remain faithful. Truly an amazing family! You can't really see it in the picture, but sweet little Jude contributed a drawing as well! Love it!

This square is from Tori. I love this girl! She has always been a source of wisdom for me. Not only is she crazy and fun to be around, she truly invests in people and gives really helpful advice. I am so blessed to know her. She and her husband Jeremy are in the process of adopting and I am so excited for them. You can follow their story here.

Ahhh my friend Erin. Such a wonderfully kind person! Erin and I became fast friends early on in my Milligan years. She is truly one of the most level-headed people I know! I had the honor of being a bridesmaid in her wedding. She now has an adorable little girl and works as a nurse! Erin has a servant's heart through and through. Even though we don't see each other much anymore, I know I can count on her.

My friend Jessica, otherwise known as Jcarv, made this square. Jessica and I were roommates during junior and senior year. She is so kind and generous. She is an encourager and loyal to the end. Plus she didn't mind that our room was messy most of the time! :-) This girl is as genuine as they come and has a way of making everyone feel comfortable. I love you Jess!

The brightest bright orange square has to belong to Sarah McMurtrie! This is so true to her personality. She is so bright, cheerful and full of life! Sarah is truly beautiful inside and out. I can't wait for her wedding this Fall, and I hope all of her dreams come true!

Crystele is my far away friend! She may seem quiet and reserved, but once you get to know her, Crystele is the life of the party! She is truly hilarious and has one of the gentlest spirits I've ever seen. She is vet too which is completely cool!

Ok don't mind my foot in this one....The Robersons! Crystal and I became friends during my junior year at Milligan. She is so outgoing and wonderful! I spent so many hours at her apartment talking, laughing, eating trail mix....I could go on and on. Crystal is someone who "got" me so to speak and we were inseparable for a while. Now she lives in Indiana with her husband and two beautiful girls, plus another on the way! If you don't know this girl, you want to. :-)

 Kate, such a sweet friend. Kate would literallaly give you the shirt off her back. She is so upbeat and positive and extremely generous! She always has a way of making you feel great about yourself! She has taught me a lot about being a good friend.

This one is hard to see, but it's from Haley, my other roommate! Haley holds such a special place in my heart. I spent so much time laughing with her! She is so smart and so cute! What a great friend to have!

Steven Anliker....apparently has mad ninja skills! I love this kid so much! He always knows how to make me laugh! He lives in Nashville now and saves lives as a nurse. I'm have so many funny memories that involve him!

And last but not least my friend Meghan! Meghan and I joke about being two people that earned one degree. We literally had all of the same education classes together and even did our student teaching in the same school. We spent many hours together studying and working on projects and papers. I don't think I would have made it through without her! She and her husband, Craig, are headed to the Phillippines to do mission work! You can follow their story here.

Sorry this post got so long! I could seriously go on forever about these friends and many more in my life! God has truly blessed me!

When people hear my story and read my blog, they are often amazed by how well I'm handling everyting and how much faith I have through this journey. Let me just tell you, it really has very little to do with me. I have been blessed to have so many people invest in my life that this thing has not been hard at all. I have amazing examples of Godly people all around me as well as unending support.

Thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Catch up Post!

It's been a while and so much has happened. I'm going to try and squeeze it all into one post!

This last weekend I had the privilege of traveling to San Antonio, Texas to watch my little brother graduate from boot camp. It was so cool to see how things operate in an Air Force Base. I am so proud of my brother for accomplishing such a hard thing. I can’t wait to see how this impacts his life.

We had a great time going to graduation, the Alamo, the River Walk, and Sea World! I even saw a horse with a hat like me!! Hats are so popular right now!

I was impressed by how selfless the men and women in the Air Force are. Their motto is “Service before self.” Hmmm kind of like what we should do as Christians!
I was very impacted by the church service we attended. It was different than anything I have experienced before.  It’s not a common practice to hear “yes sir” shouted by hundreds of airmen during a Sunday service at Northstar! 
During communion, the praise band played Laura Story’s song “Blessings.”
I know this song has been out there for a while and lot of people have been impacted by it, but one line of the song really hit home for me in a new way.
“What if the trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?”
I have tried very hard to consider this trial in my life a blessing. My biggest prayer through all of this is that God would use it for good, that my life could somehow inspire others or lead them to know Christ, that me having cancer would be beneficial for the Kingdom.
However, I have never thought about the fact that I have cancer and have to wait to have babies could be mercies from God. What if these trials are God showing mercy to me? He could actually be saving me from something so much worse! I mean He is healing me for goodness sakes! From a cancer that is not aggressive, in a time frame that is not ridiculous. (I met a woman at chemo that has been going through treatments for 9 years!)
Hodgkins could be a mercy from the Father, and because of that, I am choosing to be grateful. What trials are you facing right now? What could God be saving you from?

Today was my 5th round of chemo!
Health/ symptom update:
~I have one more treatment and then I will be halfway done and can get a CT scan. Woot Woot! This scan will hopefully show what the doctors think, that my tumors are completely gone!
~I unfortunately picked up a bug of some kind in Texas. Throat hurts, stuffy nose, pounding headache. Not so great, but we decided to go through my treatment today anyway. They prescribed an antibiotic to hopefully clear it up. Just pray it doesn't develop into anything else and we can clear it up! Bring on the hand sanitizer!
~My weight is up 10 pounds from when I started. Most people lose weight on chemo, but I have managed to gain it! This is however not uncommon in Hodgkins patients. One symptom of Hodgkins is that you lose weight or can't gain any weight. The fact that I am able to gain weight actually means that the chemo is working and my Hodgkins is going away! Praise God! It also doesn't help that I turn to starchy foods to help with the nausea! I know I shouldn't worry about it, but it's hard for any woman to gain weight.
~My hair is dwindling. I thought I would have shaved it by now. I'm pretty bald on top. I still have a tiny ponytail though that makes me look more normal when I wear a hat, so I think I'll wait a while.
~I am so humbled by everyone's continued generosity. That Nalgene bottle is my new gift from Jessica and Kate! I also got packages from some sweet ladies in David's parent's church, the amazing Tempa Bader, and my sweet friend Meghan! Plus my hubby bought me new shoes...
 The nurses at the infusion center were taken aback by my highlighter colored shoes! I love them though!

And he bought me a sewing machine! This will serve more than adequately as my anniversary present! Can you believe that next month we will have been married for 2 years?? Crazy!

That's about it! Please continue to keep me in your prayers as I fight the emotional mind battles that come along with cancer. Satan would love to defeat me starting first with my mind! I will win this battle by the grace and mercy of God! To quote the American Airmen "...AND I WILL NOT FAIL!" (Try to imagine 700 men and women yelling this phrase! Very powerful!)

We're getting there! 5 down, 7 to go!