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! 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'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!!!