Monday, May 26, 2014

A Word on Prayer

Check out how nicely the prayer quilt is coming along:

Today I've asked Clayton to be a guest blogger on the topic of prayer. I think simply, so I was thinking he would walk us through the acrostic PRAY (Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield), but he's way more educated and complex than that. Since he has all that professional training and almost one whole year of experience now, I knew you guys would like to hear/read what he has to say too; of course I might be just a little biased, I'm a proud momma after all. Take it away C:

Andrea, my mother, has made a it a clear goal of hers throughout this cancer process that God be praised from beginning to end.  She has also asked that we continually pray.  The discipline of prayer is holy and faithful way to praise God and care for the whole Christian Church. (Side note: to satisfy my own conscience, I must tell you what follows is a distillation of a paper I wrote in seminary about this topic.  To read a Google doc of that paper click here)  

Prayer is the constant activity of the baptized.  You talk regularly with your immediate family sharing your fears, wishes and desires so that you might be supported and assisted along the way.  In baptism you have been brought, by the working of the Holy Spirit, into the family of God.  St. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we are children of God, which in turn makes us co-inheritors with Christ.  Jesus spoke regularly with the Father through prayer most notable in the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday.  If Jesus then, the perfect Son of God, submitted himself in prayer, how much more should we then submit ourselves in prayer?  
Through regular times of prayer we remind ourselves of a few things: 1.We have a Father in heaven that is greater than any earthly father we may or may not have had.  2.  Our Father in heaven listens to our prayers and indeed wants to hear our prayers. 3. There is great comfort in knowing that the divine creator and savior of the world is continually desiring to hear from you.  

The difficulty then comes in determining the way in which one should pray.  A person could spend a lifetime determining the best way to pray.  Admittedly the Roman Catholic tradition has a plethora of materials for spiritual direction, as the practice of prayer is often referred. Just Google, Ignatius of Loyola or Henri Nouwen to get a taste of what is out there.  And to be fair Protestants have a history of writing about prayer as well.  I will recommend Martin Luther’s “A Simple Way to Pray” written to his barber, and Henri Nouwen’s “Spiritual Direction”.

Here is what I have found, through my own reading and Spiritual Direction with an Ursuline Nun, to be the tenets of prayer.  Praying is foreign to your sinful nature – every bit of your sinful nature wants you to do anything else except pray.  The disciples at the Garden of Gethsemane are an example of this (Jesus said to them, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”).  

Praying can be compared to any other skill – you have to start somewhere.  You can’t sew a quilt, shoot a basketball, run a marathon, fly a plane unless you begin at the beginning – sew a stitch, hold the ball, take the first step, take a lesson – you get the idea.  You can’t pray like the pope the first time you try.  Prayer takes guidance.  The disciples even asked for a lesson from Jesus, “Lord teach us to pray.”  

Be consistent in your prayer time. If you have a hard time making things fit in the morning then don’t make your dedicated time be in the morning.  If you are contemplating bed before the six o’clock news is over then don’t make you dedicated time be in the evening.  Whenever it is be consistent.  Start small and increase your time in dedicated prayer – fifteen minutes one week, then twenty the next.  

Now comes what to say.  One of my favorite Luther quotes, I am a Lutheran pastor after all, goes along the lines of “when you pray, grab hold of a promise of God and hold it in his face.”  That is to say, when you pray, the words that you can use are the words already given to us by God himself.  He promised to give you what you need to eat and wear (Matt. 6) remind him of that, thank him for house and home, food and clothes.  He has given his commandments.  Pray for forgiveness for not keeping them and strength to keep them in the time to come.  Christ has promised to come again in glory to judge the living and the dead: Pray that he would come and you would be counted among the living for the sake of the innocent, bitter suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.  If you are really struggling for words to pray, pray as he taught us, “Our Father who art in heaven…”

There is more to be said for different and creative ways of praying and recording your prayers.  The main task of the baptized believer is to discipline the sinful nature and approach the throne of grace with confidence on account of Jesus Christ who intercedes for us.  For the Christian praying is the heartbeat of faith.   

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Finally, I received the call we've all been waiting for.  Dr. A called this afternoon, and apologized for it taking so long.

If I didn't know any better I'd say it was Friday, because good things happen on Fridays.

The margins were close, but negative, meaning that the tumor had grown close to the outer edges of the section they removed last week.  (Answered Prayer)

The lymph nodes are not involved.  (Answered Prayer)

Praise be to God!  He is merciful!!!!

The fact that the margins were close prompted Dr. A to give me further explanation.  Yes, I was taking notes, but they weren't all making sense and I think he sensed I was not understanding so he continued to dumb it down for me.

Then he hit on a winning combination... It is as if the tissue we removed last week was like a bundt cake and there was a single 8.5 mm strawberry in the cake (the cancer) and on that strawberry there were seven seeds (7 foci that were invasive), and the strawberry was not touching the edges, but it was close (hence the clean margins).  Talk to me in terms of cake and apparently I can understand that explanation.

After I gave Larry the news, I called Dr. Laura and she was dancing a jig as I gave her the news.  It took a few hours for it all to sink in for me.

Next steps: 

  • Follow up appt with Dr. A tomorrow afternoon.  He said he would explain things again (for the remedial patient I apparently am) and draw pictures and provide me with a copy of the lab report (available upon request for any of you medical types out there that would like a scanned copy :)).   
  • Will likely have whole breast radiation, because of the 7 foci  
  • Chemo is TBD based on appt with Dr. N
  • Continue to heal from surgery last week
  • June 5th appt with Dr. N
  • Meet with a Radiological Oncologist

After we dropped J off to warm up for his baseball game we went to get gas in the truck.  As we drove through town Larry asked if I'd like to stop at DQ for a celebratory blizzard.  After a few minutes, I said

Yes, and they had confetti cake!!!  

Not sure I'm fully back on sugar, but tonight it sure did taste sweet.  For those of you who have taken the no sugar vow with me, feel free to have a celebratory day as well!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Not Yet...

You've waited somewhat patiently all weekend, Monday has come and gone by the time most of you are reading this so I know you're expecting more news.

Well, I still don't have any news.

This time the nurse called me, Monday around lunch, to say that she did not have the pathology report back.  I asked if I should be concerned by that and she replied that it was breast cancer and they were running all their protocols, getting good stains, etc.

Her reply was so smooth that I didn't even catch that she never answered my question until I was dashing off a quick note with that update.  Karen was quick to reply to my note that we at least have confirmation that it is breast cancer, which made me laugh (a good thing).

Kay shared a great quote from Elizabeth (Zab) Palmberg while I was writing this: "Did you know that the median wait time for biopsy results is all eternity?"   Sure feels like that today, even though knowing doesn't change the timing of the next steps (that was my personal reminder).

Apparently the stress level is getting to me today; be glad you weren't over for a visit Monday evening.  Seems I've not been particularly pleasant to be around (and I came home early today too because my arm hurt); oops.  I made a personal attitude adjustment so hopefully things will go better for the remaining few hours I'm awake tonight.

I have received some wonderful cards and one today made me laugh out loud.  This one just appealed to my organized/project manager/list maker side.  How can a Gantt chart with milestone stars not make you feel good???

And, look how the whole door is filling up so nicely! Y'all are an awesome support.  Thank you!!!

If you've mailed a regular greeting card, I've taken some artistic license and done some cutting down and posted your wonderfully encouraging words on the back and added it to the collection, but feel free to keep doing the 3x5 cards too.

I'll sign off with this picture and verse:
The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Still No News

I know you are looking for an update about the lab results.  I wish I had them; I don't.  

I called Dr. A's office before lunch today and left a message for for the nurse.  She did call back right away and said that my results were not back yet, but that only the doctor would be able to give me the information anyway. He was doing five procedures today and likely would not be able to call me back before the weekend.  Thankfully, I was not his #5 or #6 procedure for the day.

He is not scheduled to be in the office until Tuesday.  I have a follow up appointment with him on Wednesday.  

She would call for the results and if they were ready she would text him and ask him to call me so I (we) would not have to wait over the weekend.  

Unfortunately, there was still no call from either of them. 

So it would seem this becomes an opportunity to practice our patience.  
The results aren't going to change regardless of when we get them. 
The results are not a surprise to God, whichever way they go.  
The results aren't going to change how I continue to recuperate over the weekend.  
The results aren't going to change any treatment plans.  
The results aren't going to change how I sing praise to God at church on Sunday.  He is in control.

I can enjoy these flowers either way, aren't these lovely?  

So there ya have it.  I hope you have a good weekend I will post an update when I have one. 

Answered Prayers: 
Successful surgery
Ability to dress myself again (woo hoo)

Prayer Requests: 
That God would be glorified
That margins are clear and lymph nodes are not involved.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Recovery Days

I thought I would let you all know I'm here and doing pretty well post-op; thanks be to God!

I've had two great nights of sleep and today (Wednesday) have not needed to take any pain meds, the heavy stuff or ibuprofen, so that seems like good progress.    

The prep for the surgery was terrible, and not enjoyable in the least.  I ended up passing out twice as they put in the wires, or were checking to be sure they were in the right place.  It's kind of a blur now.  

The doctor was very kind and just sat in a chair and waited for me to regain consciousness.  He said it was common for women to pass out as the wires can hit a vagus (not Vegas) nerve.  I'm guessing he got a two-for-one on my wire placements since I went out twice.  

I saw the same doc later in the day Monday and he kindly asked how I was doing, then he had a little more torture for me.  Once he was done injecting the dye for the sentinel node testing he promised he would not be torturing me any further.  

Next steps: 
  • Thursday/Friday a cytology update
    • Goal: clean margins around the tumor and no lymph system involvement
  • Thursday keep relaxing
  • Friday work from home
Today Bobbie and I got the prayer quilt updated with some new additions.  There is still plenty of room for your card if you are interested in sending one.  

Y'all have done a great job in sending no red, I know there are a couple of these that look close, but in real life they are not.  

Prayer Requests: 
  • God would be glorified
  • I would be cancer free
  • I would be able to dress myself again soon (He cares about the little stuff too)
And the flowers that I've received have been absolutely lovely!  Thank you!!! 
I'll share pictures for you to enjoy too.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Surgery Is Done!

As efficient and hard-working as Andrea is, no, she is not blogging from her hospital bed to let you all know that she is out of surgery.  I know, shocker.
This is her daughter-in-law (or daughter-in-love) J doing as requested and providing the blog update for the day.

In providing me with instructions on how to post the update on here, Andrea let me know that I could also post pictures.  I gave her a hard time about putting one up of her in the recovery room; surprisingly, she requested that I not.  (FYI - for your own sake, do not Google "surgery" for funny pictures to post on your mother-in-law's blog.  Just don't.)

She was taken to surgery around 12:45, just before her scheduled 1 o'clock timeslot.
L notified us just before 3 that she's out of surgery and all is well.  If there are any more updates as the day goes on I'll update this post.

And on a personal note, thank you all for the thoughts and prayers for Andrea as she walks this path.  While no one wishes for trials in life, we can surely thank God that she is not alone (surrounded by family and friends both near and far) and that she is a woman of strong faith (as evidenced by her desire to give glory to God throughout her journey to cancer-free).

And lastly, so I can use all the blogging skills she taught me, here are two pictures of my adorable kiddos and what we've been doing the past two days.

Yep, that is c wearing a crown at the playground yesterday.  And e is showing off her newest skill of standing unassisted.  Feel free to attempt to pinch those cheeks right through the computer.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Paper Prayer Quilt Picture

Today was a great day for getting the mail.  Lots of quilt squares arrived, so I thought I would share how things are shaping up.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Surgery Date is Set

My efficient nature really appreciates all of the medical people acting swiftly when it comes to getting this show on the road.  Here are the details from today.

Today the surgical scheduler called and said she had set everything up for Monday the 12th.

  • 7am   Report to the hospital
  • 9am   Insert the metal tracer wire into the tumor (did anyone else hear that in Schwarzenegger's voice)
  • 11am Venture to nuclear medicine for the dye to be injected for the lymph testing
  • 1pm   Surgery
We've worked out all the logistics on who will have J and when.  He was very excited to find out that he'll be staying with his buddy J overnight on a school night.  Not to mention that J just got the cutest puppy. Patrick, at his house.  

I'm  feeling a bit nervous about the events planned for Monday, they just seem long and arduous at this moment.  I know they will pass, and the results are very much what we are after here. I can do hard things, even if I don't like to do them.  

Last week I received a list of all the names of God from Evelyn.  I guess I needed to pay closer attention to what she sent me, because I heard a great sermon on the radio yesterday and today here talking about all of the different names of God.  

I knew some of them: Jehovah Shalom (God of peace) and Jehovah Jireh (God who provides), but what David Jeremiah did in the last 10 minutes of the broadcast was wonderful.  He took Psalm 23 and pointed out all the names of God called out specifically in that one Psalm.  Here is my attempt to recreate it for you.  

Clayton can correct me if I get any of them wrong, and I'll update the post.  

The Lord is my shepherd (Jehovah Raah--my shepherd); I shall not want (Jehovah Jireh--who provides).

2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters

3     He restores (Jehovah Rapha--who heals) my soul.
       He leads me in paths of righteousness (Jehovah Tsidkenu--our righteousness) for his name's sake.

4     Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
       I will fear no evil, for you are with me; 
       your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Jehovah Shalom--who is peace).

5    You prepare a table before (Jehovah Nissi--who is our banner) me in the presence of my enemies; 
       you anoint (Jehovah M'kadesh--who sets apart) my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
      and I shall dwell (Jehovah Shammah) in the house of the Lord forever.

Only two from Evelyn's list were not included [Jehovah El Gomolah (recompense) & El Shaddai (all sufficient One)] and that may have been because I was taking notes while inching along on 183.  

Prayer Requests: 
  • That God would continue to be glorified each day
  • That I would be cancer free 
  • That the anticipation of Monday would not be a burden (anticipation is the worst for me)
  • That Dr. A would be successful in all he does; especially with me!  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinco de Mayo Update

Today was a visit with Dr. N, the oncologist:

  • The results of the PET scan last week showed that there was NO metastasis; Thank you God! 
  • I asked about the need/desire for genetic testing and that took us down a rabbit hole for a little bit during the appointment (more about that).  
  • Dr. N called Dr. A right there during our appointment and talked with him (love those cell phones).
  • Dr. N concurs that the next step is the lumpectomy and sentinel node testing.
  • There was possible/probable (both words on same report in different places) lymphovascular invasion from biopsy report.
  • Dr. A and I chatted this afternoon and I told him we were ready to move forward with surgery.

Next steps:

  • Dr. A is writing up his surgical orders
  • Dr. A's scheduler will call me to pick the day for the surgery 
  • Surgery date TBD (possibly as early as this week); likely a Thursday

The genetic testing is something that several people have told us about.  I'm at an age that the indication for this testing are gray (perhaps like my hair).
If I were younger, it would be an easy decision to say yes.
If I had daughters, yes (another reason for C, S and J to be glad they are boys).
If there was any family history of breast cancer, then yes.  Being an only child of an only child we don't have a wide canopy or drip line on our tree so there's not as much to go on, except that what is there does not indicate any need for the testing.
The testing takes two weeks, there is no rushing it through.
Going through the testing delays surgery at least two weeks.
With the possible/probable words from above, L and I decided that we should move forward without the testing at this time.
I will undergo the pre-screening/counseling for the testing in case we decide to go that route at a later time.

What could it tell us?  That my genes are predisposed to be cancerous, and that a more radical treatment would be planned.

Could I still go through the genetic testing, post lumpectomy, yes.

Still want to get in on the FUN?  It's not too late.   The first three contributions arrived today; one all the way from Minnesota!  If I didn't know any better, I'd think she drove it down here.
I'll be attaching them to the pantry door as they arrive.  Don't worry if you didn't mail yours today.  It will still be welcome when it arrives.

Answered Prayers: 

  • Our family is at peace about all that is going on (there's been a few jokes too, which is a good sign around here)
  • I feel great and not emotionally burdened; Matthew 11:28-30
  • Meetings last week went really well

Prayer Requests: 

  • That God would use this circumstance in my life to His glory
  • Surgery will be scheduled
  • Surgery will go well
  • Lymph nodes will test to be without cancer

Thursday, May 1, 2014

More News and Friday FUN: Paper Prayer Quilt

Appointments today went really well, except I was surprised that my face would be SO close to the top of the 'tube' and I was not thrilled to be in the tube for 25 minutes, but I used that time to pray.

Thank you Stephanie for pointing out that DUH, everyone knows that is what a CT scan is like and treating me like a real friend and calling me on that.  I totally deserved it.  :)

The CT/PET scan was all clear, which Dr N's nurse said was a good thing and Laura was thrilled about.  So there is something to praise God for right away!

(post surgery)
Are there cancer cells in the lymph nodes
Appears Small
What is the size of the tumor
(PET results)
Has the tumor spread elsewhere 
(I think this one is green, based on Laura being happy)
Well defined
Well defined
What is the cell-type (histology) of the cancer
Do the cancer cells express “hormone receptors”

MyProject Manager style comes out naturally to show green as good in a nice table style format with each of the key factors.

We learned today from the surgeon, Dr. A, that I seem to be an ideal candidate for the lumpectomy based on all of the factors above.  He's not in a rush, thinking that the timing of the surgery would be in the next 2-3 weeks.

Post surgery, they will send off the lump to ensure that there were clean margins and they will also take a sample of lymph nodes to be tested as well.  That will take 3-4 biz days to make that determination at the lab.  Surgery would likely take place on a Thursday and then I could be back at work by Monday or Tuesday, since I have a desk job.

If lump has clear margins, and nodes are clear then radiation is next step.  That could be 5 treatments 2x/day, but then that's all.  That of course would be wonderful and give a good reason to others to get those timely mammograms.

Lots of other options of course if it is not the best case scenario.

Prayer Requests: 

  • That God would be glorified, despite unpleasant physical circumstances
  • Me, being cancer free
  • Monday's appointment would provide clear direction on timing the next steps
  • That a lumpectomy and radiation would be all that is needed
Next Steps: 
  • 5/5     Dr. N appt 
  • 2-3 weeks  Surgery to remove the lump

Now for the FUN stuff: 
A number of years ago I read this idea about artist trading cards in Family Fun magazine.  We made a few ourselves, ok, mostly Jake's friend and I made a bunch.  Here is the inspirational article if you want to read more about it and few of the ones we made that I could find.

Ten years ago, or more, Betsy, Sandy and I took up quilting and started a Quilting group at our church that is still going strong.  They make tied quilts for people and have people in the congregation pray over the quilt and tie a knot somewhere on the threads which are extra-long, then when you have the quilt over the sick person (eek that’s me these days) they are covered in prayers. 

God inspired this idea that we could combine the two ideas like this.  You, dear reader, could take a 3x5 index card and on the blank side should create your own art card, say a prayer for me being cancer free (or anything from my prayer request list) and send it to me.  I’ll hang them up on my pantry door(s) in the order that they are received that way I don’t have to think too hard about what sort of pattern to make them into and they will be a wonderful visible reminder that I’m covered in prayer. 

If you have multiple people in your house that want to participate of course that’s ok.  If you want to combine your card with someone else’s and create a two or more card design, that’s ok too (just let me know how they go together). If you want to make more than one, that's ok too.  

For you free spirits out there, go get busy, have a blast.    

Here are guidelines for those of you who need more rules:

  • Cards will be displayed portrait style; 3" across the top

  • Super selfish request please no red.  I'm just weird that way.  
  • Please sign the back of your card since it is a quilting 'rule' to sign your work
  • Any medium will work: pencil, crayon, paint, marker, fabric, glitter, photographs, tissue paper
  • It does not have to have words, or it can
  • Use your imagination
  • Don't over think it; go with your gut
  • Get it out the door by Monday morning

If you don’t have my real address and want to send a card, please respond to this post and tell me who you are and why I should give you my address  cuz I don’t want any creepers to be creeping.  I still have to be careful for stranger danger and all that.