Pages

Friday, December 27, 2013

O Holy Night

So I meant to post this for Christmas, but I'm obviously a little behind.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is O Holy Night.

I've been thinking a lot about this line.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.

 It's Christmas time which I usually love and look forward to every year. It's a time of hope. It's a time of joy. But this year has been tough. I've felt a little like a zombie walking around with this weight on my heart. The weary world part has never been so real to me.

These past few weeks have been the hardest weeks of my life. I have so much hurt, anger, despair, and sadness inside me that it makes the day-to-day pretty challenging.

What do you do when the thing you've hoped for and believed in and thought had happened....didn't? What do you do when your future is probably not going to pan out the way you'd hoped?

At this point, medicine has little left to offer us. We've always believed that it would be God who would heal me, but now we feel a miracle is really the only way out of this nightmare.

Everything looks bleak. I feel like there's nothing to look forward to. I long for hope. The thrill that comes from imagining a bright future. The thrill of believeing that all is not lost.

I want people to still believe that I will be healed. I want to still believe it.

And I do.

God could still come through and heal me. God could still provide a way for me to live on this earth with my husband and have my babies. If anyone can do it, God can do it.

I do believe He's able, I just wonder if He is willing.

And what if He isn't? Where does that leave me? What if this cancer takes my life like it does so many others?

Well. I'll be with Jesus. I'll be in heaven. And people, heaven is better.

I mourn and feel so hurt because I want to be here, but we were never meant for here.

Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby. He lived a perfect life and died a horrendous death on the cross....for me. So I would be able to go to heaven. So when I die, it won't be black and dark and nothing, but a new life in heaven with Him!

There's no greater hope. There's no greater thrill.

I'm not giving up. We will press on and as we always do, we will take things one step at a time.

But I'm still reeling and still hurting from the disappointment. I'm unsure of what the Lord is doing and trying to trust Him.

My prayer is still that He would heal me on this Earth, but that my thrill of hope would come from being with Him someday. Please pray with me. Please hope with me. All is not lost.

Friday, December 13, 2013

My wish

There have been several times in my life when I wished for things that were just out of reach.

I've wished I was thinner, more beautiful, more outgoing, smarter, funnier, someone who had it all together.

When I was single I wished I was married and I have constantly wished I was a mother.

And even though these things have still tempted me, over the last year and half all I have really wished for was that I was someone who was healthy and didn't have cancer.

But today...today I wish my faith was stronger. Today I wish I could trust more and not fear death.Today I wish I had confidence in my future despite my circumstances.

We received probably the worst news possible this week. After less than 100 days since my transplant, the cancer has grown back in three lymph nodes in my chest.

It seems like such a punch in the stomach. To share such positive news back in August and go through transplant and think that finally we had beaten this thing. To think that finally the Lord had given us freedom from cancer.

I had planned my 2014 and it was going to be a wonderful year. I was going to grow my hair back and lose the cancer weight. We were going to go on a trip healthy and happy. We were going to start classes to become foster parents and look towards the future with hope.

All those plans are out the window. My cancer is back.

I can't even begin to tell you how much it hurts and how alone I feel.
I can't even tell you how much I would rather poke my eyes out than put my family and friends through more pain and heartache.
I can't even tell you how angry I am.

I feel like I was drowning for so long and I finally had been pulled from the water. However, this week I was thrown back in and I don't see a way back to the surface right now.

The plan right now is to do radiation and hopefully get control over the disease again. Then we will potentially do a donor transplant. These treatments are scary and hard on my body and will be done in Nashville. I still have a chance for a cure, but this cancer is more aggressive than we could have imagined.

I want to be strong and courageous. I want to give you scripture and tell you that I believe everything will be ok. I want to say something wonderfully profound about life that will make you believe that I'm hopeful.  But I'm struggling with that right now.

All I know to do is stand on the truth that I know.

God still loves me.
He is a good Father.
He understands my hurt and my pain.
He wants me to be honest with Him.
He'll walk with me to the very end.

I wish my circumstances were different. I wish my remission had been a cure. I wish I didn't have to walk this road. But I know who's walking with me, and I know where I'll be when I'm finished. 

We appreciate your prayers as we face this next chapter.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Fear

Fear

It sneaks in and takes hold of you before you even know what hit you.

I haven't posted in a while. I've had lots of thoughts for posts to write. I've had a lot of half-written in my head posts. But I just haven't followed through and written anything.

After it was rescheduled about 14 times, my "100 Day" PET scan has been scheduled for this coming Monday, Dec. 9th. At my appointment on Tuesday I will get the results and we will decide about radiation. (It's not actually 100 days since my transplant, but close enough.)

I wish I could say that I was confident about this scan. God healed me, this I know. But I haven't been feeling wonderful over the past few weeks and in my weakness I have let in some pretty intense fears.

I'm afraid that the cancer has grown back.
I'm afraid my healing was temporary.
I'm afraid everything I believed about my future won't come true.
I'm afraid God has forgotten about me.
I'm afraid.

Cancer is a big, ugly monster. It has completely altered the course of David and my life. It has prevented us from being parents right now. It has put our dreams on hold. It has claimed the life of my Grandfather, David's grandfather, countless others, and just this morning a friend from high school.

It's scary. It's big. And God doesn't always protect us from it. So it seems like it would be ok for me to be afraid that it would come back and ruin everything.

But it's not ok. Fear is not of God. God is bigger than cancer.

"Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation with prayer and petition present your requests to God and the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Friends please petition the Father on my behalf. Pray that the cancer is still gone. That nothing would grow back. That my scan would go well and be COMPLETELY clean just like it was in September. That I would have peace no matter the outcome.

Thank you so much for standing with me.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Will Not Wait

So...it's been a while.

Things have been a bit crazy the past few weeks and I'm sorry I didn't take the time to update.

On day 24 I think...two Tuesdays ago. They told me my counts looked good and I was allowed to go home for a week! I can't tell you how happy this made me! They said to come back the next Tuesday and I would probably get released.

We went ahead and moved out of the apartment so we wouldn't be paying for 7 days that I wouldn't be there and I got to go home!

I went back last Tuesday and was told I could go home! My White Blood Count had gone all the way up to 6.1! hooray!

As thankful as I was, we knew we weren't done yet....sigh.

Radiation.

So I went back to Nashville this past Tuesday planning on starting radiation on Wednesday. However, I had been experiencing shortness of breath and a weird feeling in my lungs. They ran some tests and it turns out that I have lung toxicity. It is a rare side effect from one of the chemo drugs that was used during transplant. It is very treatable with steroids but will postpone radiation for at least a month. But we are thankful that this was caught before we began radiation. If not, I could have seriously damaged my lungs. God is good and present even in these bumps in the road.

This was very frustrating news. We are just so ready to be done with this part of our lives. We are just so ready to focus on something else besides cancer and not have treatments looming over us. It feels like this road is never-ending.

For so much of this journey I've just been aching and dreaming to get past all of this. To move on, to move forward. To put cancer behind us. To not burden my husband or my family anymore with all of my health problems. Like the only way I could be happy and rejoice was if cancer was gone and I could have my life back and get on with my plans.

But God has been showing me that I have to focus on the present. I have an extrememly full life that is filled with blessings. I am so grateful for my husband, my family, my friends, my church, my dogs, my house, my jobs, my life! The list could go on and on. And even though this is not the plan I had for my life, it is the road God brought me down and I need to trust Him and not resent the plan.

I have struggled to rejoice recently. It was hard for me to fully celebrate my healing knowing that I was about to go through something awful and my cancer could possibly come back. And now it's hard too because I'm not back to normal yet and I still have another whole leg of the journey.

I was standing in worship two weeks ago and I was praying about this.  I had a thought of, "when can I celebrate? When will this get better? When will I feel healed? Well after we make it two years then I'll know it's not coming back. Then I can truly celebrate and feel relieved." In that moment I distinctly heard God say to me, "you don't have to wait."

I was completely overwhelmed and in that moment I knew my dreams had to change. I had to stop dreaming about life after cancer treatments and making that the source of my happiness. God HEALED me! That is enough! My desire to be closer to God should outweigh any desire I have for children or normalcy.

I will not wait to speak of what God has done. I will shout from the rooftops that God healed me. God provided for me in the hardest of times. God chose me to share in His suffering so I could be more like Jesus. God is good. He is faithful. He will finish what He began.

Celebrate today what God has done in your life. You don't have to wait. You don't need to fear the future or wait to see how things play out. He is present even in the darkest of times and we can always find a reason to celebrate.

"I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty-
and I will meditate on your wonderful works."

Psalm 145: 1-5

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

One step forward...

 Hello everyone! I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted. Today I am on day +15 and I am doing well! I've had some bumps along the road but hopefully it won't be too long before I'm out of here. A lot has happened since I posted last and I love a good list so I'll give it to you in list form!

1. I lost my hair. This makes the third time I've had to shave my head. I might have cried. If you think it gets easier the more times you lose your hair, it's definitely not true. I'm praying this is the last time I ever have to lose it. Until it decides to grow back in, I'm rockin the bald look...again.

2. My mouth finally recovered and my gums quit hurting/bleeding last week (This meant my white count was about to start rising) I was really excited because I thought I was through the worst of it, but then I had some rough days after that. One step forward two steps back.

3. My white count started going up which is the first step in the "rebuild my bone marrow" process last week. It was <0.1 or basically non-existent for a long time. (Normal range is 3.9-10.7) Then it was 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.7, 1.2....and today it went down a touch to 1.1. Boo. It's ok though they say that basically is the same as staying steady. I was just hoping for more improvement! Big steps forward, tiny step back.

4. My red blood cells have been pretty tricky. While I didn't have any bone marrow, I wasn't able to produce any on my own so I had to have several blood transfusions. I was dropping incredibly low quicker than they thought I should which was frustrating. Then I went three days with no blood and my count actually went up! I thought I was done with blood transfusions. Then today it went down again and I had to get blood. Very frustrating! One step forward, one step back.

Are you noticing a pattern? I'm finding that this journey is not as straight forward as I thought it would be. Hopefully from here on out, we can step forward, but I know God is with me even in the back-stepping.

On top of everything, I am so homesick. I just want to be at my house with my puppies and my husband. I want to go back to church I want to see my friends. I'm feeling so good now, it's hard to be here. I want to walk in my healing and live my life. I am so over being a patient!

I really miss this guy...




And these pups...



 But I know that I have so much to be thankful for.
~I'm thankful I am recovering and feeling good again. I'm thankful I haven't had anything so serious that I ended up in the hospital.
~I'm thankful that I got my own cells instead of a donor's and so I only have to be here to day +30 instead of day +100.
~I'm thankful I have family that can come take care of me. I'm thankful to be in remission. I'm thankful for a lot of things.
~I'm thankful I have Jesus and therefore have hope when so many around me are bitter and have no hope.

I will press on to win the prize. I will stay steadfast and trust that the Lord has not forgotten me.

Lord help me focus on these things instead of the negatives. Lord help my counts to go up. Please grant us wisdom as we face tough choices and next steps ahead. Please keep this cancer from ever returning and grant us with a long life full of ministry, love, and babies together. Help me trust You in the uncertain times. Most of all, use my life to glorify You and don't let these struggles be in vain.

Love, 
your daughter

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hedge of Protection

So day +6 here in Nashville and things are going well. My mouth has given me some trouble and been really sore so I've been limited to eating soft things, but it hasn't been too bad! My counts have bottomed out and I am getting regular blood transfusions to help out. I definitely feel better afterwards and tonight I feel great! I'm still walking two miles everyday and am looking forward to my counts starting to go up hopefully by the end of this week!

The other night we were riding in the car and were on a pretty busy highway. There was a row of square-shaped hedges along the road and I noticed several birds darting in and out of them.

They worked their way down the road coming out and then quickly darting back into the safety of the hedge. They did this all the way down the road until they reached the end.

I was fascinated watching this. Everytime the birds left the hedge the quickly saw the danger of the world outside and darted back in. The only way they could journey on was to dart in and out like that.

As I was watching this, the words "hedge of protection" popped into my mind.

Growing up in the church, this is a phrase I've heard often and even prayed for often, but it finally hit me what it means! Those birds were safe under the cover of that hedge. Just inches outside it were whizzing cars and the dangers of the world. I thought about what it must be like inside that hedge. No doubt lots of critters find safety in there. The leaves probably shield some of the noise and offer protection from the sun.

This protection is what God offers us. I have prayed during this journey many times for protection. I've asked God to protect me from the harsh side effects of chemo, from the long-term side effects of transplant, from the hurt and doubt of disappointments, from the discontentedness and impatience in my heart. And God is faithful. He wants to protect us. It's what He does.

I found probably the most beautiful piece of scripture while looking up "hedge of protection."

Take a moment and read Psalm 91.

Psalm 91 (New Living Translation)

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished. 9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet! 14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation."

Isn't that amazing! God loves us so much. And now I have a visual. He is our creator, our provider, our healer, and our PROTECTOR! Thank you Lord for this.

In my situation it is so easy to "dread the disease that stalks in darkness" but I don't have to. The Lord has healed me and will complete what He has begun. He is my hedge of protection and I will gladly find refuge there.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Light and Momentary

Well I'm on Day +4 today and things are going well.

There have been a lot of little things and minor discomforts but overall things are going smoothly.

My counts are plummeting. Literally my white blood count is undetectable right now. This is good, I'm just ready for them to start going back up!

I received a pint of blood yesterday to help out with that and will probably receive platelets today.

There have been a lot of little things that I'm trying not to focus on.

~My mouth has begun to hurt which means I may get mouth sores soon. This is the one side effect I have been dreading because I've never experienced it.
~My fatigue level was pretty bad yesterday. I just felt blah and didn't want to do anything.
~I'm not sleeping well at night for some reason. I just can't really rest even though I'm so tired.
~My stomach is pretty sensitive and I've had some nausea off and on. Medicine helps, but it's kind of a ticking time bomb! I'm never sure when I'm going to feel normal.
~I have to wear a mask every time I go anywhere and I get a lot of stares.
~David had to go back home for a while and I miss him a lot.
~I'm starting to feel homesick for Knoxville. I keep dreaming about all of my friends and my puppies and my house.

I know that these things are all minor compared to what I could be facing and so I count them blessings.

I read this verse this morning and felt the Lord speak to me through it.

"16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

1 Corinthians 4:16-18

My troubles are light and momentary! They have an expiration date, praise the Lord! I will work on fixing my eyes on Jesus to get through the next 26 days!

 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 0

Happy Birthday to my immune system! I am literally a newborn now.

Today was Day 0 and I got my stem cells back today!

It was an interesting experience. The cells are frozen and they bring them in on dry ice so it's all very dramatic looking.

They thaw them out, but they are still very cold when they go in my body. It made me flush really badly and made my chest tighten up. It was a very weird sensation. 4 bags later and I was good to go!

Now those little guys make their way to my bones and rebuild my bone marrow.

From now until I leave, I will go to the clinic every day to get checked and get fluid, meds, or transfusions as I need them.

I've been walking two miles every day and hope to continue even as my counts bottom out. I am so thankful to be to this point and am ready to get healthy again!

Every time I go anywhere I have to wear a mask. Here's a photo for your enjoyment!

God has been good to me. I am so relieved to be finished with the treatment part. Please pray that I don't get sick as my counts bottom out and that I can recover quickly!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Last Day of Chemo!

My last day of chemo was today!!! Woo hoo!

Unfortuantely I didn't take any pictures because, well I felt pretty bad this morning!

I knew this one would be tough and it was. Luckily, I slept through a lot of it.

We were done around lunchtime and I came back to the apartment and slept for a good while before eating lunch.

Thankfully, after lunch I felt a ton better and knocked out a 2 mile walk!

The weather was absolutely beautiful! I was struggling with my attitude this morning because I was afraid I'd miss the amazing weather, but God was good and gave me strength for the walk!

To top it all off, my sweet friend Jessica Carver sent me the most thoughtful care package ever today and I am so thankful for her! What an amazing friend!The timing was perfect and I can't wait to use everything in there!

I'm finding that I just have to continue to take captive my thoughts. It's so easy to get anxious and worried and feel left out.

When I was feeling bad this morning, all I could think was, "it's only going to get worse from here." No how is that helpful?

I know God is with me. I know He will protect me. I have some tough weeks ahead, but at least the chemo is done and we can move on!

I go to clinic for a check tomorrow and then my cells go in on Monday. The day you get your cells back is considered Day 0. So technically I am on Day -2. Hopefully by Day +30 I hit the road!

I will so miss being with my Northstar family tomorrow! I hope everyone has had a good weekend and that God's presence is evident to all tomorrow morning!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Do not be anxious

Today was my last day of looooong chemo. I have one more infusion tomorrow but it should be shorter!

Not too much to say tonight. I'm not feeling fantastic. Much more tired today.

I had a good quiet time and a great walk tonight and I'm really grateful. I'm trying my best to not be anxious about tomorrow.

I get my last chemo infusion and it's one I've never had before. Praying it's the one that knocks everything out, but also praying that my body won't have long-lasting side effects (other than being cancer-free forever of course).

But I know my trust is not in my body or my doctors, it is in the Lord.

He has brought me this far, I know He will see me through!

Pray for me that I can be joyful instead of anxious tomorrow and that I can shine the light of Christ even when I feel really bad.

Good night everyone!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Tablet of your Heart

A quick post tonight!

Today was another long 9 hour day of chemo. One more long day tomorrow and then a short day on Saturday. I get a day of rest on Sunday and then Monday is the day I get my cells back!

I received beautiful flowers from Paul and Lindsay Bowley today! Thank you so much to my sweet friends! Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to have fresh flowers in my apartment because of the germs that they can carry so someone in the hospital will get to enjoy them now! Thank you for the sweet thought! They are beautiful!

I read this verse yesterday.

"My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart."   Proverbs 7:1-3

One of my daily goals for transplant (along with showering, walking, doing brain exercises etc) is a time for memorizing scripture.

God gave us the bible as a gift. It's one of the ways He communicates with us. Scripture can give you so much peace amidst troubled times and as a follower of Christ, I'd like to have more of God's commands written on the tablet of my heart!

My friend Sarah is a master at scripture memory. Seriously, her young children can quote circles around me and she has whole chapters of the bible committed to memory! What a gift!

She has agreed to give me a verse each week that I'm here to work on memorizing. It will be a way for me to find encouragement and keep my brain sharp!

This week's verse is Philippians 4:4-8 if you'd like to join me! Challenge yourself to memorize this verse this week! It is so appropriate for what I'm going through right now and I hope it will be an encouragement to you!

"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 in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable, whatever is lovely - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things."

(And yes I just typed that all from memory! woo hoo!)

I know that may seem like a lot, but if you break it up into chunks, it's easier. I also like to write it out on notecards and whiteboards so I see it regularly.

Praying tomorrow and the next day pass quickly and we can get onto recovery! Thank you to everyone who is following me and praying for me!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Feeling Free!

Today has been a pretty good day! Day two of chemo is done! Only three more to go!

I am officially AMPED up on steroids right now! I only slept about 4 hours last night and walked/jogged a little over two miles with David tonight and I don't even feel tired! Crazy! I know I'm going to crash hard, but I'm enjoying these few days of feeling good. Even if my bone marrow is not feeling too good...

I had a sweet quiet time today. I worked on a memory verse and got a lot of work done. I feel like God is already blessing my time here. More on that to come!

My dear friends sent me away with a beautiful antique jewelry box that I will treasure forever (courtesy of Laura Smith) filled with sweet notes and gifts for my journey.

Tonight I opened a card and gift that said Week 1.


It was a sweet note and beautiful willow tree angle from the Starkeys! Before I opened it, I was feeling so thankful for God's healing in my life and how I can already see Him using it to bring glory to His name. I opened this and this angel is exactly how I feel....free! I just want my life and my story to bring glory to God.
I pray that everyone reading this blog can feel this sense of freedom to worship our creator. He is good even in the midst of your storm. He will complete the work that He has started and He is always worthy to be praised no matter what our circumstances.

Thank you Lord for the amazing people in my life that love you enough to show love to me!

Good night everyone!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Streams in the Desert

Not a whole lot to say tonight...we are WIPED OUT!

We arrived at the cancer clinic at 7:30 and left at 5:00!

I had my first of five days of chemo and a LOT of fluids!

Lord willing this is the first day of my LAST chemo EVER!!! Lord let it be so!!!

Some highlights of my day:

1. My nurse is a Christian and was super kind! I really like her and hope I'll have her over the next few days.
2. I received a funny gymnastics video from Kemper (David's brother)
3. I had packed yummy snacks to eat that mom and Granny bought be from Wal-mart.
4. I still feel relatively ok...not nauseous yet, just tired.
5. Having David here with me.
6. Seeing pictures of the newest Stevenson baby! Annabelle Bethany Weber! She is precious!
7. Seeing my good friend Steven who is a nurse in the heart transplant unit. He just hopped over and said hello!
8. Knowing that my sweet friends who adopted from Columbia are going to be HOME tonight after 8 long weeks!
9. Feeling like even though this is going to be hard....it's going to be good....really good.

I'll expand on that last one a bit and then I'm off to bed!

This thing I'm doing is hard. I mean  will be getting so much chemo that it would literally kill me if I didn't have my stem cells harvested previously to revive me. There are all sorts of side effects and scary things they like to tell you about. My body will literally be rebuilding itself!

However, we have asked God all along to close this door if He wanted to keep me from this. Put up a block! He hasn't. In fact He has made it very clear to both David and I that this is the route we were supposed to take.

I have 40 days to be away from my normal life. 40 days to be set apart. 40 days to rest, recover, read my bible, pray, and focus on God and what He wants to do with my new healed life!

Sounds great to me! The chemo is tough and the side effects will be tougher. I'll be working as much as I can, but I will have so much time to seek the heart of my Father!

I have always longed to have a more vibrant and disciplined prayer life. We've been in crisis for 17 months and I've grown a lot closer to God, but it just makes me want more! I tend to get distracted easily and don't make enough time for prayer. It looks like I have very few excuses for the next 6 weeks!

It is so sweet to me that our sermon series right now is on circle makers. For those of you at Northstar, it looks like my circle has been made for me right here in the heart of Nashville! I would love to put your prayer need in my circle, so please let me know how I can pray for you!

Lord willing I will return rested, renewed, cancer-free forever, and closer to my Father! Hopefully the Lord will spring forth water from this dry desert!

That's all for tonight!

"Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert." Isaiah 35:6

Monday, September 9, 2013

Show and Tell

Well I am here in Nashville checking in! Today was a very full day! I had a few last minute appointments to make sure everything is on track, I had a PICC line placed in my arm, and I got settled in my apartment!

I feel like I'm moving into college again. I'm staying in a one-bedroom apartment that is walking distance from the hospital. It's really nice! Here are a few pictures.





Speaking of show and tell, I have to share a sweet story about prayer. After we found out our GOOD NEWS on David's birthday, I think I was still in shock! I was so thankful that this thing we've been praying for for 17 months finally happened! God is so gracious to us! I went to church that Wednesday night with a new spring in my step!

I am so humbled by all of the people far and wide that have been praying for me. People I don't know and people I do. But you all know I have a special place in my heart for the little ones. I have been moved to tears so many times thinking about my little preschoolers that have prayed for me.

During wee worship on Wednesday night, sweet Riley Raby just had to get up in front of everyone and share something. She jumped on the stage and said "God answered my prayer. He makes me so happy because He healed Miss Leslie. And now she can have a big baby!" Then she pointed at me and all of the kids clapped and cheered!

I was so moved by Riley's sweet show and tell. I'm so humbled that God would use me to be a walking example of His love and mercy. How many times do we recognize what God has done in our lives the way Riley did? Riley couldn't wait to share what God had done! Sweet Sadie was the same way on Sunday. She couldn't contain her excitement and kissed me on the cheek while jumping up and down!

I cannot tell you how much joy it brought me to see these little ones understand a little more about how God works!

God is already using my story to teach us more about Him. I'm so humbled and so blessed.

Tomorrow I start chemo! I'm going to try and blog more regularly while I'm here so you can all go on this journey with me! I'm so blessed by the love and support around me! I don't know what I would do without it!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Great news!!!

"My heart, O God, is steadfast;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, high above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth."

Psalm 108:1-5

Well we had our big day and a mighty big day it was! David turned 29, and the scan came back COMPLETELY CLEAN!!

God is so faithful and good in His timing. What an amazing gift for my husband. What a joyful day! I am so thankful to have good news to share. We would still praise the Lord all the same if the results were bad, but it feels so good to see our prayers answered this way!

It has been such a blessing to see everyone's reactions to our news!
I am so humbled that God would use an event in my tiny life to bring Him glory.
Thank you Lord for using me.

This means that I am in remission! Many of you may think that this means we are done, but unfortunately, we still have a long road ahead of us. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel though!

I will go in for pre-testing this Tuesday and then Monday, September 9th, I will begin my autologous stem cell transplant.

This means I will be in Nashville for 30-40 days. I will receive high-dose chemotherapy for a week to kill off my bone marrow. I will then be given back the stem cells that we collected a few months ago.

For a few weeks I will simply be recovering while my new cells engraft and create newer, healthier, hopefully cancer-free bone marrow!

The reasoning behind this proceudre is that my cancer was extrememly agressive. Even though nothing showed up on my scan, there could still be tiny cancer cells hanging out in my bone marrow or somewhere else in my body that could grow back. We are hoping to eradicate these cells and are praying for a lifetime of remission!

It is pretty common for people to relapse after a stem cell transplant, espcially people with cancer like mine. But I know God can do this. I am confident that if He wants to spare my life He will.

I also know that is was not the last treatment that put me in remission. Only God could have done this in this way. God was faithful to complete the work that He started. I am praying and believing that this gift of healing is once and for all.

We are so relieved and so grateful, but we are also preparing for the weeks ahead.

Ways you can pray for us.

Pray for David. It is not going to be easy for him to travel back and forth between Knoxville and Nashville. I know he will be under a lot of stress.

Pray that the cancer stays away for good and this treatment is effective!

Pray that I will be spared of some of the long-term side effects that can happen because of this amount of chemo I will be getting.

Pray that I will heal and recover quickly and we can get back to normal soon!

If you want to...pray for babies in our future. (had to throw that one in :-))

Thank you all so much for walking these bast 17 months with us. We are so thankful for our friends and family.

Praise the Lord for he is good! His steadfast love endures forever!!!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is my sweet husband's birthday. The most faithful, steadfast, funniest, most talented, most good-looking guy I know will be 29 tomorrow.



Tomorrow is also my scan after two rounds of Bendamustine. We travel to Vanderbilt tonight.

The past few days I've pretty much been a mess. I'm pretty anxious about this scan. I don't know what God is going to do. I don't know if God is going to heal me. I don't know what my future holds and if I even have a future. And it's scary.

I try very hard to be strong and just keep going with life as usual, but tomorrow will determine a lot.

I know how important it is to worship through the storms of life. I know that my job is to continue to worship God no matter what the outcome is tomorrow, but I haven't always done a great job at this.

David and I were in the car the other day and I was not having a good day. I was upset and sad and scared. I was feeling so left out and so hurt. I was questioning God and why He wouldn't want to save me, why He wouldn't want me to be a mother or grow old with my husband. Why He chose this for us when so many around us get to live normal lives?

David put on some music and said, "we need to worship right now."

I looked at him like He was a crazy person. How could I worship God right then? I was pretty upset with Him. How could I tell Him how wonderful He was, when I felt like He had forgotten me.

But David was insistent. So at first I started to sing half-heartedly. I was just letting the words come out, but not really feeling it. But the more I sang, the more I wanted to sing. As the song went on, tears came to my eyes and I knew the words I was singing were true. I couldn't deny them, even though I can't see them played out in my life yet.

My song was not pretty.
My song was broken.
My voice cracked because of my tears.
There were many times I couldn't even get the words out.
But I think I truly worshipped God.

I didn't gain any understanding. I still have anxiety. I'm still hurting. I'm still broken. But I do know now exactly what it means to worship God in the midst of the storm. I'm so thankful for David leading our family in that direction.

Please pray for us tomorrow. I know I've asked so many times. I know the weariness that many of you feel because we feel it about a million times more. But this scan determines a lot about my future and we need your support now more than ever before. I know God is still good and is still faithful no matter what the outcome. I just really want this to be the one. We will, however, continue to worship no matter what.

A clean scan would be the most amazing birthday present I could give my amazing man.

This is the song we sang.

Your Great Name

Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of your great name
All condemned; feel no shame, at the sound of your great name
Every fear; has no place; at the sound of your great name
The enemy; he has to leave; at the sound of your great name

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

All the weak; find their strength; at the sound of your great name
Hungry souls; receive grace; at the sound of your great name
The fatherless; they find their rest; at the sound of your great name
Sick are healed; and the dead are raised; at the sound of your great name
Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Redeemer, My Healer, Almighty
My savior, Defender, You are My King

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; that all the world will praise your great name

Monday, July 22, 2013

It Shouldn't be this Way

I'm so sorry that its taken me so long to post. We have been pretty busy with VBS and vacation and then scan and then waiting for results and then processing results...

I've started writing about ten different posts in my head, but never get around to writing them. The truth is I don't really know what to say. To say this last year and a half has been an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement!

I was very hopeful that this last scan would be completely clean. I truly felt in my heart that we were nearing the end of all of this. But we still have a bit of road ahead of us.

My scan was not clean. There is a small cluster of lymph nodes in my chest that remained the same size and activity from the last scan. Everything else is gone. This means I can't do a stem cell transplant yet.

Thankfully my doctor doesn't want to abandon chemo yet. I will be trying a new drug called Bendamustine to see if we can wipe out this last stubborn bit of disease and then do a stem cell transplant with my own cells to hopefully keep it from coming back. Radiation will be the last step to seal the deal.

If this drug does not work, then we start looking at other options such as radiation, clinical trials, and a donor stem cell transplant.

How do I feel about all of this?

I'm frustrated.
I'm hurt.
I'm weary.
I'm discouraged.
The truth is when people ask me, I don't really know what to say.

When I think about everyone that is believing with me and invested in me and that I have to deliver another round of bad news I think, "it shouldn't be this way."
When I think about how much of our marriage has been spent dealing with cancer I think, "it shouldn't be this way."
When I think about the fact that 90% of people who have Hodgkins are cured with one type of chemo and I'm on number four I think, "it shouldn't be this way." 
When I think about how much my heart aches for orphans and how I wish I could bring them into my home and love them but I can't because of stupid cancer I think, "it shouldn't be this way."
When my heart hurts so much because I can't be a mom yet that I physically ache I think, "it shouldn't be this way."
When I think about how much I want to grow old with my husband and all we could accomplish for the kingdom if cancer would just GO AWAY I think, "it shouldn't be this way."

And it shouldn't.

But what I do know is that there are a lot of things that "shouldn't be this way."
Cancer is one on a long list.
The reason we have this list is because of sin. The world shouldn't be this way. We should be living in the garden in close proximity to God. We should trust and never doubt God's promises. We shouldn't Sin and a perfect man shouldn't have had to die because of it.
It shouldn't be this way.

But that same man rose from the dead. He saved us from eternal punishment and it is by His wounds and nothing else that I am healed.

I have moments of fear, moments of doubt, moments of despair, but it is this truth that I can't deny and right now it is the only hope I can cling to.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and encouragement. It pains me so much to deliver not so good news, but I pray that we can all still stand in hope and believe that my healing is on the way!

Tomorrow I start Bendamustine for two days then three weeks off. Thank you for all of your prayers!
 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Control

Here's the problem with cancer.

We have no control over it.

We can pretend like we do by trusting in chemo, radiation and doctors. We can pretend like we can avoid it by controlling our diet and not putting plastic in the microwave and staying out of the sun.

But we don't have control over cancer.

It has and will take the lives of many and affects the lives of nearly everyone.

We despise cancer. We fight against cancer. We hate cancer.

Why? Because we can't control it.

It represents the very thing that humans struggle with the most.

We want to control our world. We want to control our lives and many people will live a long time believing that they can.

Recently I have felt the sting of not having control over my own life. I hate the fact that my plan for my life has not played out the way I wanted it to. I think often about the fact that if cancer hadn't entered my life, things would be a lot different. I want things my way. I wanted to write my story.

However, even if you don't have cancer, you don't have control of your life. You're kidding yourself if you think you do. After losing Bethany, this reality has become even more clear to me.

As a Christian, this is one of the most frustrating and amazing parts of my life.

God is the one who controls my life. God calls the shots. He is the author and perfector of my faith.

I realized this past week that this is such a huge blessing!

I was reading a page about cancer and a survivor was being applauded for being so strong and for causing his cancer to run in fear because of his strength.

While this was meant to be a compliment, all I could think of was, "what a burden!"

If the only way my cancer will go away is if I'm strong enough, then you can count me out right now! I am NOT strong enough on my own. There is nothing I can do to control this beast except to trust the one who can.

In Joshua it says:

"When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God in heaven above and on earth below." ~Joshua 2:11
 

The hearts of the enemies of the Israelites melted in fear simply because God was with them. People, this cancer will not melt in fear because of me! This cancer will melt in fear because God is with me!
Thank you Lord for taking that burden from me!

With God ALL things are possible. Without Him NOTHING is possible!

I don't have control over my life and let me tell you that is FRUSTRATING! But guess what? I don't have control over my life and that is AMAZING!

If your view of God is that He is mean or vindictive or judgemental than this bit of information doesn't make you feel any better. If you don't trust who God is, then you fight against His control of your life. You don't trust that He has your best interest at heart. You don't trust that He will protect you and work everything together for your good in the end.

But let me tell you. God is good. He is just. He is faithful. He performs miracles! We will never understand His ways, but we can trust Him!

I choose to trust Him and it is such a relief. He takes on the burden so I don't have to.

So get ready cancer, you are about to melt in fear because of the power of the almighty God! You think you're tough, but you will be shaking in your boots!

*Treatment Update*

I have had my stem cells collected and completed another round of ICE.
This round was really tough and my blood counts went lower than they ever have before.
Because of this, I had to have a blood transfusion. I was really resistant to this idea, but I feel SO MUCH BETTER! I had no idea how weak I really was.
This week I go back for my final round of ICE.
I get scanned on July 8th! I covet your prayers!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Joy

Just a quick update today!

I spent 10 days in Nashville to collect my stem cells and I can't tell you how happy I am to be HOME!!!

I definitely had some ups and downs on the trip, but I'm thankful everything is completed and they retrieved all of the stem cells that they needed. It was crazy to think that I'll be getting those same cells back eventually.

Today I start another round of ICE! I'm excited because it puts us one step closer, but I'm not excited because it's chemo.

I know you all have been such prayer warriors for us and I know that my healing will come from the combined faith of all of you.

I would ask that you please lift me up in prayer this week and those that follow. Whether or not this set of chemo gets rid of the rest of my disease will determine a lot about my course of treatments.

Please be confident with me that this will get rid of the rest and my pet scan in 6 weeks will be CLEAN!!!!

We talked in lifegroup last night about the concept of joy. There are many that would think that David and I could not be joyful at a time like this. I've even thought this. How can we be joyful in a time like this?

The answer is that yes you can because joy is not determined by our circumstances. Joy comes from God. It is a fruit of the spirit and a fulfillment of God's love for us.

Even though we have had an extremely hard year and are looking at an extremely hard next few months, we can trust that God goes before us. We can have joy that we are fulfiling God's will for our lives. We can have joy despite our circumstances. It is my prayer that God would heal me, but it is also my prayer that God would give me joy through the storm.

"What joy, what joy for those who's hope is in the name of the Lord.
What peace, what peace for those whose confidence is Him alone."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A time...

"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance."

With a heavy heart I read this scripture. For the Vogel/Stevenson families it is a time to weep and a time to mourn.

On Thursday morning Bethany Hunter Hardman was killed in a car accident.

Bethany was not related to me or David, but she was family. David's grandparents began a tradition with their friends, the Stevensons, many years ago to celebrate Thanksgiving together. This tradition began with 4 people and has grown several generations to over 50.

This wonderful family welcomed me in and called me their own as eagerly as David's family did, and on Thursday, they lost someone very dear.

Even though I have only known Bethany for a few years, I have many great memories of her! From staying up late to talk with me at Thanksgiving to many conversations on the beach in New Jersey to overhearing her sing "the wheels on the bus" to her sweet boy over and over again. To hearing her get creative with "people on the bus, chickens on the bus, pigs on the bus etc."

She always made me feel welcome and opened her heart up to me. She let me in.

She was a wonderful mama to a little boy named Noah and a sweet baby girl named Lilly.
She was a great wife to a man named Randy.
She was a precious daughter to a mom named Laura and a dad named Dave.
She was a loyal sister to men named Jeremy, Jonathan, Andrew, and Joel and sister-in-law to Joanna.
She was a priceless cousin to Katie, Dave, Kara, Luke, Zach, Jake, Lena, Jessie, and Corey.
She was a sweet grandaughter to Harry and Ann.
She was a valued niece to Cindy, Mark, Tani, and Rich.
She was a treasured friend to many.
And this is only a small portion of the people that loved her dearly.

I can only imagine the hurt that my sweet extended family must be feeling right now. It hurts so much to have lost Bethany. It hurts so much to know that she won't be there for Thanksgiving, or summer vacation, or cousins weekends. It hurts so much that I can't be with everyone right now.

I know that she is with Jesus now, but we grieve because she will be greatly missed.

Many times when tragedy strikes, we wish we could turn back time. I know there have been many times when I wished I could go back to life before cancer.

But the truth is, if you could rewind, you'd always end up back in the same place.
Life moves forward. You have to hit play.
This world is a broken, scary place. We will never fully understand why the things in our life happen the way they do, but God is sovereign over all.

The only answer, the only hope, the only way to keep going is Jesus. We will see Bethany again because of Jesus. We will find peace amidst the sadness because of Jesus.

Today we are torn down, today we weep, today we mourn, but today, Bethany is dancing with our Savior....and someday soon we will dance too.

We love you Bethany!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Way Overdue!

This post is extrememly overdue! Things have just been SO crazy busy with the Vogels these days, I've struggled to find time to update everyone!

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and thoughts about our last scan. We are so thankful to have good news and at be headed in the right direction. After talking with our doctors at Vanderbilt, the ideal would have been to have a clean scan this past time, however, the fact that my disease has responded so significantly is a VERY positive thing. We understand that we are just dealing with a very resistant disease that will take a little more "heavy hitting" than most. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God is bigger though! When He chooses to give me complete healing, it won't matter what we're up against!

So here's the plan.....

Step 1: Evaluation for Stem Cell Transplant

 I went for two days to Nashville and pretty much every test under the sun was performed. They checked my heart, lungs, bone marrow, and took about 20 vials of blood! Crazy! We met with doctors, nurses, radiation oncologists, social workers, you name it! We got a lot of information and it was a bit overwhelming, but we are thankful to be headed in this direction!
 
Step 2: Stem Cell Collection

Our hope is to use my own cells for a stem cell transplant. This is less intense and has fewer long term side effects than using a donor. My brother is a perfect match for me if we have to go down that road, but we are hopeful that we won't need that! I will be in Nashville from the 9th to the 18th for stem cell collection. It's not a hard procedure, but it does take some time. They said I should feel normal and be able to do normal things like shopping and sight-seeing. Any recommendations on things to do in Nashville would be appreciated!

Step 3: Two more rounds of ICE chemo

It is our FERVANT prayer that this step would put me in complete remission. I had such a great response to the first two rounds, but there is still a small amount of disease holding on. PLEASE PRAY that more ICE will knock it out!

Step 4: PET scan

If this scan is clean, then we will head directly into transplant! If not, then we will possibly try another type of chemo or do radiation first. We are really, really, really hoping it will be clean!

Step 5: Stem Cell Transplant

I will spend about a month in Nashville and hit the reset button on my immune system. I will get a very large amount of chemo and then recieve my stem cells back to regrow my bone marrow. It's a crazy process, but we hope that this reset of my immune system will prevent relapse and get rid of this stuff for good!

Step 6: Radiation

I will then go through about 3 1/2 weeks of radiation to the spots where I previously had disease. Radiation is extremely effective in treating Hodgkin's Disease, but they try to avoid it in younger patients due to the possibilities of secondary cancers. My Doctors and my family all agree that curing me now and hopefully preventing Hodgkin's relapsing is more important than secondary cancers. We really like our radiation oncologist and he is confident that this is the best route for me.

Phew! That's a lot of steps! It's a long road, but we are thankful to have a road! God is teaching me so much about who He is and what it means to go through hardship.

Our preschoolers have been learning about Moses and the Israelites. God offered his protection to His chosen people over and over again, even when they didn't trust Him. God has begun to open my eyes to see that His protection has been a huge theme in my life as well. There have been quite a few moments during this journey that I have questioned God's plan for my life. I mean, He didn't protect me from cancer, did He?! But the truth is, He has protected me from SO MUCH!

After three types of chemo in a year, I do not have any damage to my heart or lungs! They are functioning perfectly! I also have never been nauseous enough to stay in bed all day through this entire process and have been able to continue working. Praise the Lord!

God has been so good to us, and I know He will continue to be! This journey we have been on has been crazy and scary, but we are standing firm on His promises and asking Him daily for healing. Just like God was faithful to the Israelites, we are confident He will be faithful to us!

 I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am for my friends and family. This community I have been blessed with is well beyond what I deserve! Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has blessed us with gifts, cards, well wishes, words of encouragement, and most importantly prayer!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Giving Thanks!

Yesterday we went to Vanderbilt for my scan after 2 cycles of ICE chemo.

The results of this scan were so important. Basically another failed chemo would not be good for my future. It would have put me in a tiny category of people that have disease that is not chemo-sensitive. It would mean that we would try other toxic chemo, radiation, clinical trials, or possibly have gone straight to a donor stem cell transplant....very scary. If ICE can get me into a complete remission, then we can move forward with an autologous stem cell transplant (using my own stem cells) which is much less intense and safer.

We didn't share this with a lot of people, but my doctors did not think that this chemo would work at all. They already had labeled my disease"chemo-resistant" and basically told us that we were trying ICE in order to "rule it out." We literally have a recorded session with my specialist where he said this. Talk about a downer....

Well before the scan I had a LOT of anxiety. (In the cancer world we call it "scanxiety" haha) I was trying my best to trust the Lord, but I could still feel a tumor in my neck and I was having pains in my chest that I assumed were growing tumors. Remember that I have never been in remission and have never had a scan that showed progress or good news. I had spun myself into a pretty dark place where my future was in jeopardy.

I prayed harder than I've ever prayed before and God heard me. He heard the thousands of people that have been praying for me.

As I sat in the doctor's office, I just knew the results would be bad. I had prepared myself for the worst and had options that I wanted to try ready to go for when she said, "the chemo's not working."

You can imagine my surprise when she walked in and said, "well I'm not a radiologist, but I looked at the scan and it seems to be almost all gone."

I was in a complete state of shock.

David and I both said, "really?!?"

So she showed us the previous scan I had done 6 weeks ago and the scan from yesterday and we could see an amazing result! The old scan lit up to show an enourmous amount of disease in my chest and neck. On the new scan, we could not see anything in my chest and only one small dot in my neck.

Amazing!

The amount of disease has decreased SIGNIFICANTLY!

The official radiologist report states that there is still some disease, but it has gone from "severe or intense" to "mild or moderate." We'll take it!

We are so grateful!

This means we will move on with another round of ICE to hopefully get rid of the small amount that is left.

If we can get a complete remission or "no evidence of disease" after the third round, then we can move forward with an autologous stem cell transplant and hopefully be DONE with cancer.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am. I want to shout from the rooftops!

I have felt for months that I was drowning. I have felt so out of control and like this disease was slowly taking over my body and stealing my future and there was nothing I could do about it.

I had begun to question whether God was willing to rescue me or not. Whether he wanted to save me.

I was in a pretty dark place.

God met me there and lifted me up. He gave me good news and showed me once again that I'm not alone and that He is bigger than all of this.

It is a miracle that this has worked as well as it has. God is so good to prove the doctors wrong! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God took away that amount of disease, not the chemo. I know that it was your prayers that caused such a good report yesterday! If you share my story with anyone, be sure to give God the credit, not the chemo!

Now, we are not out of the woods yet. We have to get rid of the little bit that's left. But today I am praising the Lord and feeling so completely grateful that God would show me such grace.

To God be ALL the glory!

Now we move forward with new energy and strength and pray even harder for a COMPLETE remission! I know God can do it!

"I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will RESCUE you!" ~Isaiah 46:4




Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Shadow of the Cross

One of my very favorite songs of all time is Kari Jobe's "What love is this."

The chorus goes like this:

"What love is this, that You gave Your life for me
And made a way for me to know You.
And I confess, You're always enough for me
You're all I need."


I just love this song, and God used it and this photograph to teach me a little something this week.


It was the week before Easter last year that I was first diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. We have been fighting this awful disease for almost exactly a year now and I can't believe it.

Many people may look at my life and say that I have suffered greatly in the last year.
~I've endured 12 treatments of ABVD chemo, 2 rounds of Brentuximab, and 2 rounds of ICE chemo. ~I've lost my hair twice and gained close to 30 pounds.
~I've been told I would not be able to have children naturally.
~I've seen my chances of surviving and having a long-term remission decrease steadily with each disappointing scan.
~I've watched my family, friends, and husband suffer because of a disease that is completely out of my control.
~I've experienced fear, doubt, hurt, anger, and disappointment over and over again.

Yes, many would say I have suffered this year, and most days I would whole-heartedly agree.

But as I sit here tonight and think about Easter, my suffering seems so tiny compared to what my Jesus suffered.

"I look to You
I see the scars upon Your hands
And hold the truth
That when I can't You always can.
I'm standing here beneath the shadow of the cross, 

I'm overwhelmed that I keep finding open arm."

My Jesus suffered on the cross. He was pierced for MY transgressions. He took MY sin and bore it as His own. He paid MY debt.

His death on the cross was horrific, but Jesus experienced the greatest suffering of all when God turned his face from Him. He even shouted from the cross,

"My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus felt what it was like to have God forsake Him, and that suffering, I will never experience.

No, I'll never know this kind of suffering... because of Jesus. He bore that for me, so I wouldn't have to. Things have been hard, but God is always with me.

I was recently looking at pictures from our trip to Whitestone right before I started ICE.  We were seeking the Lord so much and wanting answers so badly. We were scared and nervous about what was before us. When I saw this picture, I noticed soemthing new and these lines from the song immediately popped in my head.



"I'm standing here beneath the shadow of the cross, 
I'm overwhelmed that I keep finding open arm."

Do you see the shadow of the cross in the upper right hand corner?!The shadow of the cross, right there to remind me that I will never have to suffer like Jesus suffered! What a sweet reminder of God's love for me.

There have been times on this journey when I have felt like God had forgotten about me, but He has not!

So be thankful for the incredible gift that Jesus gave to us. He bore our sin and suffered so that we don't have to. We can spend eternity in heaven instead of being separated from God. All we have to do is accept the gift and live for Him! This, my friends, is the best news of all!

Happy Easter everyone!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ice Ice Baby~ Day 1

I started my new chemo yesterday. The beloved ICE! It is a three-day treatment, so I go back today and tomorrow for more! I can't promise that I will post everyday, but I thought I'd at least give a mini-update.

I was at the doctor for a total of 7.5 hours yesterday. I had  doctor's appointment, bloodwork done, and then a whole lot of pre-meds and chemo!





One of the drugs in my new regimen is hard on your kidneys so I was given a total of two hours of just fluids. I have never been more hydrated/bloated in all my life! Thankfully, I still feel pretty mornal so far. I can tell my body is a bit weaker and I have a funny taste in my mouth, but no nausea yet. (They give you the good nausea stuff before treatment and it lasts a few days).

Today's treatment will be a bit shorter thankfully. I'm hoping to be there from 9:00 to about 12:30.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone for your prayers, support and gifts! I don's have enough time to share everything, but I wanted to make a short thankful list. (P.S. I wish I had more pictures!)

I'm thankful for...

~A church staff as fun and supportive and flexible as Northstar! From holding a prayer service, to providing us with time away, to putting on an 80's party for volunteers, to allowing us job flexibility during treatments, to everything else! I couldn't ask for more!



~Friends that drive from Johnson City to spend time with me and give me a goody basket!

~Friends that take me to lunch and to get my nails done!

~Sweet people that leave me presents on my doorstep!

~A company that is extremely understanding and supportive as I work from home!

~A life group that is as thoughtful, supportive, prays as much, and laughs as much as ours!



~A church family that showers me with love and gifts and prayers. 

~For my former coworkers who still think of me and pray for me even though I've been gone almost three years!



~For great neighbors and best friends who surprise me with porch makeovers!




~For great nurses and staff at Thompson Cancer Survival Center! Phillip, Mike, Amy, Dr. Ibach, Melissa and many more!

~For my amazing families who drive long distances to be with me and pray with me and have girls weekends and love me from near and far away!

~For my partner in crime, Sarah Coleman, who always makes me laugh and teaches me more about the Lord everyday.

~For the many, many people who lift me up in prayer each and every day! Some I know and some I don't! Thank you so much!

~And most of all to my amazing husband without whom I would have given up by now. David Vogel, you are my rock and I love you more than I can confess. God has doen such a beautiful work in our marraige and I know he will be faithful to us.



As I go into day 2, I ask one thing from anyone that would read this little blog. Please stand in agreement with me. Please believe with me that God will use this drug to kill my tumors once and for all. It is my fervant prayer that God would defeat this cancer and heal me in this life so that I may serve Him longer! No matter what happens, He is still is faithful.

Now is not a time for sadness, but a time for believing and rejoicing in the work God is doing! Please continue to stand with me in faith. Faith heals, and for a monster like this cancer, I need more faith than just my own!

Thank you in advance for your thoughts and prayers!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Change of Plans

A quick update for everyone....

I had noticed that the node in my neck was swollen after my first treatment of Brentuximab. I was alarmed, but told that maybe it was just inflammation from the medicine working. When it did not go down after the second treatment, we called my doctor in Nashville and he wanted to see us right away.

They did a PET scan on Monday and found that the tumors have actually grown by 30%. Bretuximab is obviously not working and we need to change our course of action.

Needless to say, this is not the news we were hoping for. In two weeks I will start ICE chemo. Hopefully we can get a response from this drug.

Pray for us as we trek onward. I just keep wondering when this thing is going to turn around! I hate so much that we have to keep delivering bad news.

It has never been more clear to me now that the only way I will have freedom from this disease in this life is if God chooses to miraculously heal me. Please pray for a miracle. I believe He is more than capable of it!

Thanks for your prayers.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

New Chemo Round 2

So I had my second treatment of Brentuximab on Thursday. 

Everything went well. I saw my doctor and then went out to Oak Ridge for the infusion. I am feeling a bit tired and my body is sore. I'm really hoping this means that this medicine is FIGHTING THESE TUMORS!!! Please Lord let it be so!




I appreciate so much everyone's prayers and interest in what is going on.


The question I get the most often is, “How are you feeling?” Mostly people mean physically. This answer is always easy. The majority of the time, physically I feel good. Especially now with the new medicine that has no side effects.

For those that wonder how I am feeling emotionally? The answer is not so easy. I know that the only one who can save me from this mess is Jesus. I know that my faith in Him is what will heal me. I am striving everyday to trust Him, but it’s not exactly easy. There are so many unknowns and so many scary outcomes to all of this.

If I'm being completely honest, the last week has been pretty rough. There is a lot of pressure for this drug to work and I've found myself heavy and doubting. My thoughts run away with me when I think of what will happen if my tumors don't respond to this drug...

My usual response to the emotional feeling question is, “I have good days and bad days.” This however, is not completely accurate. If I were answering truthfully, I would say, “I have good moments and bad moments.”  I have moments where I forget I even have cancer, moments where I couldn’t be happier, moments where I feel God’s presence and I trust him completely.

Then I have bad moments. I have the moments of intense fear and doubt. I have the heavy moments where I wonder if I will survive this. Where I question God and His hand in my life. Moments where I wonder if this will be my last year of birthdays, or date nights or family gatherings, etc.


I have to strive every moment to find faith. I have to choose within every breath to trust God. Every moment is a battle and sometimes I win and sometimes I lose.

I have been learning a lot about Abraham and his faith through a weekly bible study I go to and the curriculum we are using for our preschoolers. Abraham was a man of great faith. He trusted that God would give him descendants as numerous as the seashore. He believed that God would give him the promised land. He definitely had his slip-ups, but he always came back to God's promises and God was always faithful.

Even though Abraham was tested and it seemed like everything was against Him, God fulfilled His promise.

"And so from one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore." Hebrew 11: 12

I am praying that God would give me faith like Abraham's. I pray that even though I must venture out into unknown land, even though my dreams seem so far away and it appears that so much is being stolen from me, I want desperately to be faithful.


I choose to believe that God will restore back to me all that has been lost and that I may have descendants that make famous the name of Christ!

I believe that God will use my life for the kingdom and that I will be healed from this awful disease. I pray that even in my failures, even in my weakness, even in my moments of doubt, that my faith would remain intact, just like Abraham.

If I accomplish nothing else in this life, in this journey, I pray that God may look upon me and find me faithful.

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Chemo...Round 1!

Well...it's 12:14 AM and I can't sleep....so I'm blogging :-)

I had my first round of the new chemo a little over a week ago and everything went well!



It was surprising to me how different it was from my last set of chemo and yet how eerily the same it was....let me elaborate.

This new drug, Brentuximab, is a targeted drug or smart drug. It only attakcs the protein that is found in my tumors and elaves the rest of my body alone. Awesome! It only takes 30 minutes as opposed to the 2-3 hours that ABVD took, and it doesn't have any of the same side effects. No nausea, no hair loss, nothing. It was so easy, comparatively speaking!

The pre-meds that I got, however, were the same as before. The Benadryl made me incredibly sleepy, the anti-nausea meds mess with you, and don't even get me started on the steroids! They also give me a neulasta shot a day or two after the treatment to boost my white blood count and it makes my bones ache. This was by far the worst side effect from this treatment!

I didn't realize that I would have all of the pre-meds with this wonder-drug and wasn't exactly prepared. The most dissapointing part was the steroids. Man I hate them. I'm thankful for what they do in helping the chemo work the best that it can, but the weight gain, insatiable appetite, and sleeping trouble make me want to throw it out the window!

I am very glad to be in treatment, but it was emotional starting all over again. Walking back into an infusion center and getting hooked up again brought about a very bad version of deja-vu. I had so hoped to be done with my last treatment in September and never have to go through another chemo treatment ever again. However, the Lord has different plans for me and we must fight for another year. We are not finished yet.

I told David that if I could just have some sign or promise from the Lord that I would win this fight and survive this disease it would make things better. Could He just speak to me and let me know that I will have life beyond Hodgkins and that this treatment will work? If I could just have some guarantee that I will make it through this, I could endure just about anything.

He lovingly reminded me that if I had a guarantee, there would be no need for faith.
 
Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is trusting without knowing the end result.

So I continue to walk in faith, praying fervantly that God will heal my body and give me long life. I pray that my story can be used to share the gospel with people who don't know Christ and provide hope for those who need it.

I pray that one day I can look back on this time with my sweet husband and a house-full of kids and be thankful that God taught me so much about faith through this journey!

Thank you so much for your continued prayers and well-wishes! Round 1 done!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Happy Birthday to me!



Today is my 28th birthday. Where did I think I would be in my life at 28? You probably already know the answer to this question! It definitely wasn't facing my second round of treatments for Hodgkins Lymphoma, that's for sure! However, I really am grateful that I've made it to 28, and even though I don't know what this year holds for me, I do know that I have a lot to be thankful for and hopeful about.

We have successfully finished our fertility preservation process and will begin treatment in the next few days. This time around I am not really trusting in the drugs or the doctors at all. I am trusting in my maker. And the truth is, I feel more hopeful than ever!

I believe that God loves me and wants what's best for me. I believe that He has allowed me to walk down this path so that I can be stronger and grow closer to Him.

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."     Romans 5: 3-5

This journey has not been easy...I have doubted...a lot.

There have definitely been times when I felt like I shouldn't hope. It's crazy, but I actually had times where I thought I shouldn't plan for the future because I didn't want to feel foolish if I didn't survive this thing. How silly!

The word clearly states that our sufferings bring us to a place of hope! Hope does not not put us to shame because it is from God! I have nothing to feel foolish about because my hope is in Christ.

Sufferings ----> Character ----> Hope----> No shame!!!

This year as I blow out another set of candles with cancer still in my body and no babies of my own yet, I am unashamedly hopeful about my future. I have a battle ahead, but I know that God will receive the victory and I will not be put to shame!

Another thing I'm hopeful about is this amazing cake that I'm going to enjoy with my family! Thank you to the amazingly talented Julie Raby with K-Town Cakes! Yum yum!