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!