Tuesday, August 17, 2010

with Your likeness let me wake

It has been awhile since our last post so we have a lot of catching up to do! My mind works better if I break big things up into littler pieces, so I have broken this journey up into phases.

Phase 1: diagnosis and staging
Phase 2: chemotherapy
Phase 3: recover and recooperate
Phase 4: radiation
Phase 5: follow-up testing and scans

My last chemotherapy treatment was July 1st. The last couple of treatments were difficult physically and my blood counts were very low. They decided to give me a 4-6 week break before beginning radiation to allow my body to recover and build back up. Those 4 weeks were wonderful. It was so great to have a break from the appointments to just rest and recover and enjoy the everyday, normal life. My counts came back up quickly and before we knew it, it was time for radiation. I had several scans (PET and CT) to help with the mapping of my radiation. Due to the location of the mass, my radiation oncologist was very careful and precise in the planning to avoid damage to my heart, lungs and esophogus during radiation treatments.

Radiation treatments are every weekday in 24-hour increments. They want to familiarize you with the routine of what happens every day at your treatments so they schedule you for what they call a "dry run day." I went for mine on Monday, August 2nd, the day before my actual treatments were scheduled to begin. Due to the high demand in radiology, I am doing my treatments at St. Vincent hospital instead of the Cancer Center. For those of you who have never had any experience with radiology, let me tell you, it is amazing! I was laying there thinking, "this is something straight out of Star Wars!" There are laser beams and machines that you've never seen before - it is crazy (and very cool!). During my dry run day they put marks on me (cross points) that will remain there throughout my entire course of treatment. There are laser beams that come down from the ceiling and beams that come in from two sides of the room. Each day they line up those beams with the cross points on my body to ensure that I am in the exact right place and position for treatment. It actually takes longer to get lined up than for the treatment itself! Every day I get one radiation blast with the machine on top of me and two blasts with the machine directly underneath me. The staff there is wonderful! They are always on schedule and secretly I time them every day to see what their best time is - so far the best time has been 11 minutes from walking in the hospital doors to walking out of the hospital doors (and that includes an elevator ride!). Pretty impressive! If my math is correct, they do roughly 4 people an hour on one machine, times two machines in the lab, times 12 hours a day ... they are treating 96 people a day at that lab alone! Across the street at the Cancer Center there are two more machines - just think about that - 192 people are being treated every day just in that one block alone. I am praising God for the way He is saving people's lives!

I have had 11 days of treatment so far and I only have 6 more days to go!! It is going beautifully! So far I have had minimal side effects. My doctor says that radiation is similar to chemo in that each treatment builds on the previous treatment so the further in you go, the more effected you are physically. I still say that this is a breeze compared to chemo!!

God has blessed me immeasurably these last few weeks, actually, He has blessed me these last six months!! It is amazing to look back and see where we have been and I stand here telling you that God has carried me the entire way. With Him, nothing - absolutely nothing - is impossible. In fact, He has made this easier than I could've ever imagined. I would rather have a thousand difficult days with Him than even one easy day without Him.

God is a God of timing. I remember the Sunday after John and I received the news that I had cancer. Emily sang a song at church that Sunday that as I listened, I made it my prayer for this entire journey. I want to share those lyrics with you but before I do, I want to say that whether or not I am healed from cancer does not make God any more or less God. God will always be worthy of praise regardless of our circumstances. His ways are higher than ours and when we are in the center of His will we have nothing to fear. That doesn't always mean things are easy but it is His plan for us and His plan is better than anything we could do ourselves.

Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labor through the storm
You have called me to this passage
And I'll follow though I'm worn

May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Jesus guide me through the tempest
Keep my spirit staid and sure
When the midnight meets the morning
Let me love You even more

May this journey be a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Draw me in to be new
Draw me in to more like You
Draw me in, take Your place
How I need to be drawn in to You today

Let the treasures of this trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne

May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Draw me in to be new
Draw me in to more like You
Draw me in, take Your place
How I need to be drawn in to You today

And at the end of my heart's testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Thank you all for your prayers, your encouragement, your support and love. I am unbelievably thankful for each and every one of you. To quote a friend's email that I read this week, "the goodness of God has flooded our lives."

in His love,
-jenny :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

when the answer is no

how do you pray? i am always fascinated listening to different people pray. i love to hear their hearts put into words as they speak to God. in college, i had a professor named Dr. Hooks. he was my old testament professor, and every morning he would start off with a prayer. honestly, i took his class when i was not the least bit interested in God, but the man could pray. i'm not talking just big words and trying to sound holy. the man had to have a direct line to God, cause he could just speak it. i could imagine God sitting in heaven talking to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and a red phone next to his throne rings, and he says, "hold on guys, i gotta take this. steve hooks is calling".

when i pray, i know it's not always eloquent and it's not always something that's gonna get rave reviews persay, but i try to speak my heart. over the last few months though, prayer has become something different. i definitely speak my heart, but i've also tried to keep focus on what God's will is. i've always wanted God's will, at least i thought i did, but i really think that i've come to understand what wanting His will is. before, at the end of my prayer, i'd always say "Your will be done". do you say that too? and if you do, do you really mean it? i think that i said it, but i never really meant it. it was like a thing you say at the end of your prayer to make sure all your t's were crossed and your i's were dotted. kind of the prayer equivalent of tossing a penny in the wishing well just in case. "Your will be done Lord", wink wink, nudge nudge.

God's will. it's not always our will. it's really difficult to seperate our wants from His will. i mean, He is our Father, and a father gives his children what they want right? when jenny and i got married, we were supposed to go to Kenya a few months later. after a couple of conversations with some very wise people, we decided it was not a good idea to go at the time. this was the hardest decision of my life. missions was what i went to school for. missions i what i had trained for. i was a missionary. but all of the sudden, missions was not God's will for my life. what!?! what was He thinking? i mean, how could He do this to me? i know we pray for God's will, but He's way off base on this one.....right?

our first year of marriage, jenny and i were unraveling personal issues that put strains on us that would have only been amplified on the mission field. being in a new marriage is stressful, but being in a new culture is even more stressful. that would have been tough. a few months after we were supposed to be in kenya, there were riots over the writing of a new constitution. many people were hurt, and some were even killed. being newly married, and new to kenya, i don't think jenny and i could have made it through that. as if that weren't bad enough, some time later, my grandmother and my brother died within a month and a half of each other. i could never have withstood that on the field, and i am not proud to say it, but it probably would have destroyed my faith. we were supposed to be there five years, which means we would not have caught jenny's cancer as soon as we did here in the states.

i'm writing this because i've been disappointed for the last week because i found out i didn't make it into nursing school. i studied and worked so hard. i've felt disappointed, and somewhat like a failure. but i started thinking about kenya. what is God's will for me? i definitely still feel called to go into nursing, so i'm going to continue that. but what is His will, His timing? is He saving us from something else? is He preparing us for something bigger and better? i just don't know. but i can tell you one thing, this time, i'm not trying to figure it all out.

i have wants, needs, desires and passions. who else knows all of these better than God? i have plans for jenny and i, to graduate, get a different job, and start a family. but is my plan better than God's plan? it's taken a long time for me to get it, but no, my plan is never better than His plan. sometimes it might coincide with His plan, but it will never be better. so, i sit, i wait, and i pray......Your will be done.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

lessons from the lawn mower

For the last four years, I've been working at Lawn Brothers mowing grass and doing landscaping. I enjoy working outside, so it's been really good for me. With all the time spent riding on a mower, I've learned alot of things about myself because I have so much time to think. This summer, I have learned a lesson that I thought I would share.

I have never really been obsessive-compulsive about much, but over the last few years I have found out that there is one thing that causes me to have OCD: straight lines while mowing yards. I don't know where it came from, but one day, it just started bugging me when a line looked a little bit crooked, and I would do anything I could to fix it. I guess it's not a big deal, but it does make me mow a little slower some days when I'm trying to get things just right. However, there is one yard that has given me fits for the last three years. No matter what I tried, I couldn't seem to get the lines straight.

Imagine a large grove of trees. On one end is an open space where you start mowing. Here, it's easy to make straight lines. That lasts for about twenty or thirty yards, and then you hit this grove of trees. There are probably about twenty or so rows of trees that someone planted in "straight" lines. Actually, they aren't straight, but kind of crooked and at different angles. Once you get through about 2/3 of the trees, you come to another open spot that lasts about 15 yards before once again going into the rows of trees.

Like I said, making straight lines is easy at first, because you're in the open. But once you hit the trees, it gets much harder. There are so many trees to circle around it makes you feel like your on the tea cups ride at Disney World. As a matter of fact, when my friend Rob did it for the first time, after he finished he said he almost got sick from going around all these trees. My lines start out straight, and I would then try to make them look straight while in the trees. The test of how well you do comes when you hit that second open area. Every time I would get to it, I would think I'd done a fine job making straight lines, but my lines would always be crooked like a banana when I got there. For the longest time, I couldn't figure out why.

This year, I tried a new approach. I would mow the trees like I mowed and open field. Two rules to making straight lines: 1) keep your front wheel the same distance from the line you just cut. Consistency is the key here. Keep it the same every time and your lines will be straight. 2) Keep your speed just right. To fast and you'll miss stuff, but if too slow, the bumps will throw you off a little bit.

So, I followed those two rules, and lo and behold, when I got to the open area my lines were straight as an arrow. What was the real difference this time? I finally quit focusing on the trees. I had been so busy trying to make my lines straight in comparison to the trees (which aren't in straight lines to begin with) that I forgot the two simple rules to making perfect lines.

This got me thinking about all of the trials that Jenny and I have been facing. All of these trees have been getting in the way (cancer, chemo treatments, school, our dog dying), and I had been wondering if we had been handling everything the right way. Some days we feel so lost among the trees as the branches reach out to slap our faces. It's been hard to not focus on the trees. But somewhere in all of the mess, after years and years of trying to get it right, I've finally learned two simple things to remember when trying to keep a straight line amongst the trees. 1) God loves me, and I love God. No matter how many times I get slapped I must always remember that. 2) God wants what is best for me. I may not get why something is happening, or when it will end, I must remember that God is in control and wants only the best for me, even if it hurts a little bit.

As I stated earlier, I've wondered how we've handled all of this opposition lately. Have we been faithful? Have we focused enough on God? Can we do this? How do we stay positive when it just gets so overwhelming? We are far from then end of the trees, but we have just come to an open expanse in our battle against cancer. Perhaps its a short breather, or maybe just a chance to look at our lines and see if they're straight. Either way, we praise God for the news that we got last week. Jenny's latest PET scan shows no active cancer cells. This means we only have three more visits to the chemo doctor before we start a month of radiation. For those of you with us from the beginning, you know we set a goal to be cancer free by Jenny's birthday on August 15th. We're right on track. Looks like that line is pretty straight to me.

Don't focus on the trees. You can't go straight that way. There are only two things to remember....1) God loves you, and I pray, that you love Him. 2) God wants what's best for you, no matter what things look like, He ALWAYS wants what's best for His children.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Chemo days offer us a strange dichotomy of emotions. There is the dread of chemo and excitement of being one step closer to done. Today was no different, except that this could be our last treatment, or so we thought. When we started this journey, we were told we would have to endure 4-6 rounds of chemo. So today, number four, could have potentially been our last one. However, in a disappointing turn of events, we found out that a "round" of chemo is two treatments. So, we are only half way there if it's four rounds, and a third of the way there if it is six rounds.

I cannot begin to tell you how disappointing and devastating it is to think you're all finished with something that has been so difficult, only to find that you might not even be at the halfway mark. Just halfway there, and the nurses tell you it's going to get nothing but worse from here on out. What do you do with that? What should your reaction be? Our first reaction is disbelief, followed by a little bit of anger mixed with tears. After that, all that's left is just this impending dread of the uphill battle you thought you were done with. As a man, nothing breaks your heart more than not being able to stop the tears cascading down your wife's face.

I am hard pressed most times to come up with the careful lessons and thoughtful words that Jenny is able to pluck from the Bible so well from week to week. It's even harder when you are trying to do so in the midst of disappointment. And it's not just disappointment, but this feeling of "We're trying really hard here to be faithful.....so, um, what's up God?". It's not a lack of faith, but it's a human response to a difficult situation. I am just a man after all. And that got me thinking....

How disappointed was Joseph when his brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous? Your own family, hating you enough to want to kill you, but selling you instead. In slavery he's lifted to an elevated position in Potiphar's house, only to be accused by his wife of trying to sleep with her. Sent back to prison, he must have been sorely disappointed again. And what became of all of these trials and disappointments? Joseph eventually was in charge of all of Egypt, second only to the Pharoah, and became the rescuer of the sons of Israel.

What did Job feel as he was stripped of everything? He was a prominent man who had it all: large family, wealth, respect in his community. All of it was taken from him. Tragically, he lost it ALL. Can you imagine his confusion, his sense of loss, his disappointment in how his life was turning out? He lost everything but his faith, and because of that, he was restored with twice as much as before, and became a testament to the faithfulness of the Lord.

In the New Testament, what did Joseph feel when he first found out that Mary was pregnant? I know he had to be confused, perplexed, angered, and definitely disappointed. And yet months later, after all of the disappointment he experienced, there he was, holding the very son of God in his arms. Disappointment turned into salvation.

Each of these are human examples of disappointment. But in each case, God was faithful and the disappointment each of these men faced was turned to joy. So here we sit, hearts full of hurt and disappointment. While our human hearts may overtake our emotions for a short time, we desperately cling to our faith, holding onto the promise of a mighty God, and await the transformation of disappointment into joy, laughter and celebration.

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus". Philippians 3:13-15

Praise God for His overwhelming sense of peace that definitely passes all understanding. Thank you for your continued letters, emails, and prayers. We covet each and every prayer you may lift up on our behalf, and we love you all. --john

Monday, May 3, 2010

How I Made It Through Cancer

so there's these two really cool people in my life. one of them i've known for almost three decades and the other one i've known for a few years. their names are sam and kristie. sam and kristie are married. sam and kristie are the type of people who make you more yourself when you're around them. they're the best. they're fun, they're so easy to talk to, they're intelligent, they're the perfect blend of free-spirited-ness and responsibility. they are hilarious, deep, thoughtful and most importantly, they love the Lord. when sam and kristie say something, i listen. so you can see how seriously i took it when they told me about this tv series that i really needed to check out. how i met your mother. they brought me season 1 on saturday night. it is now monday night and i am through season 1. this shows you how smart sam and kristie are. this also shows you that i think i have an addictive personality. (no i'm not addicted to sam and kristie. at least i don't think... hmm...)

for those of you who have never seen the show, how i met your mother begins in the future. it is a show where a dad is telling his two teenage children the story of how he met their mother. episode after episode you are watching him live life years earlier. you see him in his friendships, you see him in his relationships, you see his experiences. in the first few episodes i felt myself almost giddy with excitement waiting for him to meet her. i watched and i waited. another episode... i watched and i waited... a few episodes in and he still had not met her. i turned the tv off and i went to bed. i laid there thinking about the show. then i started thinking about how his story of how he met her began long, long before he actually met her. his experiences, the people in his life (however long they were in the picture) - all of that helped make him him. and all of it led him to her. i started thinking about having cancer. one day i hope i'm able to have children so that i can tell them the story of how i made it through cancer. my story would begin a long, long time before now. i would tell about how my mom used to tuck me in every night and just before she'd close the door she'd always wave at me. i'd tell about how my dad would let me sit on his lap and he would scratch my back. i'd tell about how my brother made me pay him to let me ride to school with him in his car before i had my license. (he's going to punch me in the arm for that one) i'd tell about when my parents bought a piece of land in brown county that has turned into such a meaningful place, a place of retreat for our family and for our friends. i'd tell about how i decided to go to indiana university. i'd tell about the first time i met liz. i'd tell about getting to live with sarah. i'd tell about paul steiner. i'd tell about some pretty amazing women, janel, emily and michelle and a little house at 820 east 8th street. i'd tell about the woman that my brother married who is the sister that i wanted my whole life. i'd tell about my friendship with amanda. and just when i had their full attention, i would tell them a story about loving someone so much that you could be halfway around the world from them and know that there was no one else that you'd rather go through life with. the cool thing is that all the things that i've experienced up until now has prepared me for this. and the even cooler thing is that this is preparing me for what is coming. THAT is our God. He knows no accident and He wastes nothing. romans 8:28 has always been my favorite verse. "and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him..." all things. that means the bad day you had. the disappointment you felt. the time you got a phone call that brought you to your knees. or that thing that you want so so bad and that you wait for every day but every day it doesn't come. it also means that moment when you thought life couldn't get any better. or that day you finally got to walk across the stage and get that diploma or the day you got offered a higher position at work. all things He works together for your good. with our eyes on Him, nothing is wasted, not a single experience or moment.

thursday is treatment #4. please pray that if it is God's will that i will be able to have the treatment. i have been having some numbness and tingling in my feet which is something that can delay treatment. but please pray that above all His will would be done - including the timing and length of treatments. i wouldn't have it any other way than His.

after treatment #4 i will have a PET scan. this will show how the cancer has reacted to my treatments thus far and will tell us how many (if any) more treatments i will need. once chemo is completed we begin radiation. right now there are a lot of unknowns - when will i be done with chemo, how long will i have to do radiation, and on and on. good thing we don't have to worry about a thing because God knows it all and He is in complete control.

"...all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be..."~Ps139:16.

thank you all for your prayers, your emails, your notes and cards of encouragement. all of them and all of you are a part of my story.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


things that make us cry......
  • complications
  • nausea
  • feeling like we can't do anything like normal people
  • not being able to take away jenny's cancer
  • not being able to visit family
  • being in the house all the time
  • not being able to make jenny not hurt

things that make us laugh....

  • our dog zoey, who thinks she is the center of the universe, and she's the reason why jenny is home all the time
  • julie and julia
  • shaving each other's heads
  • ridiculous nicknames we have made up over the past month like dragonheart and pickles (i'll let you guess which ones we are)
  • lee crane's facebook posts

things that make us smile.....

  • cards
  • rainbow sherbert
  • emails
  • messages on facebook
  • just knowing that we spend more quality time together now than any point in our marriage
  • our beautiful nephews noah and caleb
  • when a friend is willing to work for me so that i can be at home with my wife. thank you to him and his beautiful family for their sacrifice.

things that we long for.....

  • the end of chemo!
  • enough energy to do everything we feel like doing
  • the beach!!
  • to feel good enough to go to church every week
  • a calm stomach to eat anything that we want

things we are learning....

  • going through this without God would be impossible for us
  • the tough stuff builds intimacy in a marriage way more than the easy stuff
  • we are surrounded by an incredible support system
  • our families are strong, and prop us up
  • people who we don't know pray for us all the time. simply amazing.
  • sometimes pulling out a B in anatomy II is okay when you're working 40+ hours a week and dealing with cancer
  • God is most definitely in control (thank goodness!)

Jenny has felt good the last few days. We've been able to make it outside the house, have a date, go shopping, and just enjoy the weather. We have our third chemo treatment on Thursday (22nd). Please pray that Jenny's white blood cell count will be high enough for her treatment, and that she won't have to get another shot to increase them. Thank you SO much for all of your continued prayers. We love you! --j&j

Monday, April 5, 2010

my God is mighty to save

I've been thinking about tomorrow for five days now. This past Thursday we went in for a chemo treatment but found out that my white blood cell count was too low to handle a treatment and I was sent home... to wait. Tomorrow I go in to re-test my levels to see where we go from here. If they are still too low, I will have an injection tomorrow, chemo Thursday and another injection on Friday. Now I will tell you that on Thursday I had a bit of a hissy fit with God. I wasn't expecting to have to wait another week for treatment. "This throws off my whole schedule!" I yelled (in my mind) in the car on the way home. It's a good thing we have a patient God, you know? I mean, can anyone relate? We are just so conditioned to timing and scheduling and wanting things on our terms. All I could think about was this setting us back a week, a week wasted. God had other plans in mind. Can I just say thank God for my friends? My sister was so precious that day. I called her to tell her the news and she said very calmly, "I can hear in your voice that you're disappointed and that's ok. But this means you get to feel good for a few more days. This means you get to go to church on Easter." She was right. After going to church yesterday (which, by the way, Easter is my favorite Sunday at church), I knew that God delayed my treatment for that exact reason (well, and to remind me that yes, HE is still in charge!). I can't even tell you what that service did for my "insides" as we say in our family. East 91st Street Christian Church always does something special for the Easter Service. Every year it just knocks your socks off and this year was no different. After singing together and getting pumped up about what we were celebrating, something happened. It was one of those moments that you would just give anything to bottle up so you could pull it back out and live it over whenever you wanted. We had just listened to Derek talk about how God not only had victory over the grave but He has victory now in our lives, in our circumstance. The band started playing a song ("How He Loves" which is just the coolest song) and as the band played there was a line of people all the way off the stage and around the back. They came on stage, one at a time holding a cardboard sign. The first side of the sign explained a circumstance or insecurity in their life that they had been through that might seem hopeless but then after you read it, they turned it over and it read how God had had victory over that circumstance. John and I wanted to share a few of the circumstances with you.

"High school dropout. Loser, will never amount to anything...... IU Business School, Honor Student. Glory to God!"

"12 years addicted to crack.... 22 years clean and addiction free."

"Diagnosed with leukemia when 3 months pregnant. Radical surgery followed..... 17 years of cancer remission." (and just then her 17-year-old son walked out on stage to join her.)

"5 years of infertility and stress on our marriage...... God's timing is perfect, just like our baby girl."

"Sexually abused as a child, unable to love or be loved........ Married 3 weeks ago!"

"Living a life of fear of being alone and never marrying....... In God I am complete."

"Lost my job, living in fear of financial ruin....... I love my new job!"

Story after story, circumstance after circumstance of God proving Himself. A few months ago I did a 10-week bible study called "Believing God." It was my second time to do the study. The first time changed my life and the second was equally as moving. In week 9 Beth Moore talks about how "For children of God, a perfect setup for catastrophic defeat is also the perfect setup for miraculous victory." Ephesians 1:20-21 says that God "seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, no only in the present age but also in the one to come." If we're not careful, we'll miss it - "in our present age" - He is above EVERY title. That means that whatever comes up against you, whatever opposition that faces you - you've got to know that your God trumps every title. There is nothing beside Him. There is no one like Him. He is beyond compare. So when we've been set up for what seems like defeat - He says we've actually been set up for miraculous victory. Do we even realize it? We think we've been set up by the devil but God would never allow us to be set up that way unless He said, "you have provided the perfect backdrop for Me to show off." Beth points out that God, in His perspective, is already laughing (while we're busy crying or having a fit), He's saying, "you can't believe how good this is going to be - oh this is going to be so good!" That is the hope we have in Him.

I am so thankful for this "speed bump" we had last week. I have been humbled and reminded of Him and His perfect plan for me. Sometimes it is hard when those things in life creep up - those thoughts of "what if" and "if this then what" .... those things that make us just want to grab control and we just get lost in them. But as quickly as we're tempted to try to cut Him out, we can just as quickly realize that He is the one in control. He has been all along. And thank God for that.

No matter what happens tomorrow, no matter where my levels are, it doesn't really matter. It is His timing, His plan. Thank God I'm not in charge because wow, would I ever mess it up! Some of you have written me or called me to talk to me about things going on in your life, your circumstance. I am praying Ephesians 1:18 over you, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you..."


Sunday, April 4, 2010

naw cat, no wbc's here, we all cashed out

as you may have noticed, there was not alot of new information from our chemo treatment on thursday. we had our appointment with dr. gupta, got some blood drawn, and got ready for our next installment. however, jenny's blood work came back a little less than stellar. her white blood cells have not come back anywhere close to the level needed to have another chemo treatment. so, having a treatment would have taken her white blood cell count to zero, and risked her getting sick. not wanting to risk it, dr. gupta is going to test again on tuesday. if the levels are still low, they will give jenny a shot that will boost her levels, and we will try again on thursday (the 8th).

having our treatment delayed was most definitely not a positive thing for us. jenny was a little upset at first, but she soon came to grips with it. this adventure is not one of our timing (to be sure, because if left up to me, we would not be on it), but we fully trust that everything will happen as it should in God's time. while not having our treatment did not fit our schedule, i am truly thankful for a small delay. jenny felt better wednesday and thursday than she had since our first treatment, and this meant we would have a few more days of that. not only has she felt better, but we have been blessed with warm weather to enjoy, as well as time to spend with our new nephews caleb and noah. nothing can lift jenny's spirits quite as much as holding babies! again, God's perfect timing shown through the birth of these little ones during a time when we would need an extra portion of joy.

this week, please pray that jenny's body will be a white-blood-cell-making machine, and that things will go well at the dr.'s office. also, pray that the insurance company will pay for the shot she needs to boost her immune system if need be. it is expensive, and while we will pay for it if we have to, i cannot fathom the excuse the insurance company has for not paying.

thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued prayers. we love you, and we continue to covet your prayers and words of encouragement during our journey. --john

Friday, March 26, 2010

if you're tired and you know it, clap your hands

i'm writing this late thursday night, well after jenny has gone to bed. i love going back and looking at our blog, especially all of the incredible comments, prayers, and scripture that all of you have written to us. it is especially encouraging, and i hope and pray that you know God is using you to witness to us as we go through this experience.

it has been exactly one week since jenny's first chemo treatment, and it has been very interesting, to say the least. wanting to be real as we continue our battle, i wanted to update you with a few things that have happened, so that you may know how to better pray for us.

as you know, nausea was the fear jenny had the most about chemo. she didn't want to get sick, and thankfully, nausea has not been something we've had to worry about. however, side effects of nausea medication turned into a bit of an adventure. shortly after her last post, jenny started having some muscle spasms in her neck. spasms shortly turned to clenched muscles, that were causing jenny to have some uncomfortable muscle movements in her neck and back, and it was effecting her breathing. after calling the on-call doctor, we ended up visiting the emergency room for a few hours while they figured out what was going on. they quickly learned that it was her nausea medication that was causing it, and switched us to something else. for many of you, this will be the first time that you hear about this, so we apologize. please pray that this new medicine will continue to work for us without any more complications.

again, we went into this thing thinking that nausea was going to be our main enemy, and if we beat it, this would be a breeze. i don't want to say we were naive, but extremely hopeful might be a better way to put it. for the most part, it hasn't been too bad. however, fatigue has become a huge issue for jenny over the past week. she wants to work (if you even knew how bad she wanted to go into work every day you would think she was a crazy woman). she wants to hang out with people (me included, although i don't know why because she's seen enough of me the past three weeks to last a lifetime). the simple things, getting dressed, going up and down stairs, and just walking around the store have become very tiresome. she just wants to be her normal bubbly, encouraging self, but it is so hard when you don't have any energy at all. please pray for renewed strength and energy day in and day out, so that jenny will be able to complete whatever goals she has set for herself that day. it will require her to be realistic with her goals, and that will be challenging for her because she is so driven.

for the most part, i spend most of my time thinking, praying, and asking for prayers for jenny. but, jenny would be quite frustrated with me if i didn't ask for prayer for myself. most of you know i'm in school again, and obviously it is very hard to keep motivated and interested in school while all of this is going on. i've just done midterms, and one test i did great on, and another, not so much. on monday i'll be taking a test that will have great impact on whether or not i get into the nursing program, and i ask that you pray that God will grant me focus to study this weekend, as well as great recall as i take my test on monday.

again, thank you so much for your prayers. we are doing EXCELLENT here as we continue to fight. do not take this post the wrong way, thinking that we are down right now. we want to be honest with what we think and feel, so that we can show how much God is doing in this fight, and how much He continues to use you to lift us up. without Him, we cannot imagine going through all of this, and we continue to feel blessed more and more each day as we learn more about Him, and as we draw closer in our relationship. we love you all, and we thank God for you. --john

Sunday, March 21, 2010

You make everything glorious - even cancer

It is Sunday afternoon and I'm enjoying the sounds of my husband snoring just a few feet away. Life is good. My first chemo treatment was Thursday morning. Actually, I should back up to before the treatment. John and I had to be at the surgery center at 6:30am on Thursday so they could put my port in. I don't know if I had not been paying attention or if I just didn't realize, but it came as a surprise that I would have to be put out for this procedure. Let me just take this chance to tell you that God sure is one smart God. I was so groggy after coming out of the port procedure that I didn't even have one second to get anxious or nervous for the chemo treatment that followed immediately after. I could not have planned that better if I had tried!

The chemo went fine, very routinely. We laughed, played games, talked to those walking through the hallway and had a good time. All in all it took about three hours. Since then I have been doing a lot of relaxing and sleeping. Some very good and dear friends of mine got me some great pajamas so I can be lounging around in style! I am so happy to report that I have had no nausea! Thank you everyone for the prayers on this!! I am feeling much better today than the last few days. I have done some things around the house and am feeling much more energized, praise the Lord!

Because music is such a huge part of my life, I pray that God will put the right song in my head during times where I need to know that He is near. Over the past four days (actually longer than that) the same song has played over and over. I want to share it with you now. The link below is to a youtube site where you can listen. I pray that all of you will be blessed as I am by the truths expressed in this song.

The day is brighter here with You
The night is lighter than it's hue
Would lead me to believe
Which leads me to believe

You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours

What does that make me?

My eyes are small but they have seen
The beauty of enormous things
Which leads me to believe
There's light enough to see that

You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours

From glory to glory
You are glorious, You are glorious
From glory to glory
You are glorious, You are glorious
Which leads me to believe
Why I can believe that

You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours.


Love to you all,

-jenny :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

beauty is skin deep

tonight, i found myself in a situation that happened often in college. i was standing in the bathroom with clippers in my hand getting ready to give someone a haircut. no one could have prepared me for cutting my wife's hair though. we decided that we would not let cancer steal one ounce of dignity or strength from jenny while we watched her hair slowly disappear from the effects of chemotherapy. we were going to meet this head on, and we would claim the victory ourselves.

i have tried to understand and comprehend what a huge step this was in our battle against cancer. as a man, i don't think that i am completely able to understand what it is like for any woman, much less a beautiful woman, to shave off her hair. as a man, there are a few things about me that make me feel like a man: providing for my family, being able to rattle off meaningless sports statistics without thinking, playing sports, inhaling massive quantities of food with other guy friends like we're in a competition, etc. for a woman, there are so many unfair social expectations and stereotypes that they have to fit into to be "beautiful". hair, makeup, and things of that nature happen to be some of those. i wasn't quite sure how jenny would take shaving off all of her hair.

her brother, jed, and sister-in-law, elizabeth, sat and shared in a special moment for us. with a smile on her face, and laughter on her lips, she pulled her hair back and just started cutting. no hesitation. no remorse. no thinking. just cutting. never once did she complain, never once did she ask why, and never once did she let that smile leave her face. after she finished cutting, it was my turn to do the shaving.

i hesitate to post this, because it was one of the most intimate moments i've experienced as a married man, and i almost want to keep it to myself. i began to shave my wife's head, and with every pass of the clippers, she became more and more beautiful to me. i knew i loved my wife, and i knew how drop dead gorgeous she is, but nothing could prepare me to fall in love with her more and find myself thinking how beautiful she was as something we in society deem "necessary to beauty" fell to the floor. as everything was stripped away, i could not help but see even more clearly every virtue, every ounce of character, and every bit of faith she carries that attracted me to her in the first place.

i thank God for this challenge. i thank God for strength and peace through turmoil. but most of all, tonight, i thank God for my wife.

tomorrow (thursday) we start chemo. it's go time. --john

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Matters of the Body and Heart

I am delighted to tell you that I am writing this from my patio where I am enjoying sunshine, 60 degree weather and flip flops on my feet. Spring is coming!

We had our follow up appointment with our oncologist, Dr. Gupta, this morning. My heart is full of things to share so first I'll give you the medical update and then I'll give you my "heart" update.

After reviewing the results from my PET scan, Dr. Gupta was very pleased to inform us that I am in stage 1. (can I get a "hooray"?!?!) This is the best news we could've received today. The cancer is only present in the mass we were already aware of. The other huge praise from today's appointment came from a conversation between a fertility specialist and Dr. Gupta. With my particular type of chemo, I am at a very low risk and have a low chance of losing function in my ovaries. Look out world, there could be little Tuggles running around wild someday!

Next steps: I will have my first chemo treatment one week from tomorrow (Thursday, March 18th). After seeing how small my veins are, they decided it would be best for me to have a "port" put in. This is sort of like an IV that will be put in my chest and will remain there until I am finished with my chemo treatments. This makes me excited because it means less needles! My chemo treatments will be every other Thursday. After four treatments I will have another PET scan to see how the cancer is responding to the chemo. Once chemo is completed I will begin radiation which will occur daily. I am ready to get started!

Now for my "heart" update. I started thinking about what I wanted to write on here days ago - long before we received such great news today. Regardless of whether it was stage 1 or 4, my words below were going to be the same.

For those of you who know me, you know that I've kept a journal since I was a little girl. In flipping back through a few days ago, my eyes were drawn to my entry from October 24, 2005. This day was a huge day for me in my life, a day where God had big things planned. I had been wrestling with God for years over one issue in my life. The specific issue is irrelevant but can be boiled down to who I was going to let be in charge of my life - me or God. This was the night that it finally clicked. I had been reading Joshua chapter 4 - in my opinion, this is one of the most powerful chapters in the Bible. The more you dig into it the more you will find layer after layer of God's hand and faithfulness. In my journal I wrote seven truths that I learned that night - truths that made me smile as I have read them the past few days because of how they resonate. I share them with you now because every single one of you reading this blog has some sort of trial/tribulation/problem that you are going through, big or small. It could be something going on at your work or your school, something in your marriage, a hurt, a disappointment or a sadness. Life is full of these and it is good to always come back to what we know.

1. You speak to us. (all of my journal entries are written to God so that is who the "You" is!)
2. You take us on journeys that will challenge us to our very core.
3. You've already cut the path You want us to take.
4. The halfway point or "middle" (Joshua 4:4-9) is the point in time where You call us to mark, an important place. This can be a place where doubt and indecision can creep in as it is hard to see where we began and we cannot yet see the end. This is the place that requires FAITH.
5. It is vital that we take note of Your action and Your doing in our lives.
6. You are always FOR us.
7. There is no place that You will take us that you have not already prepared for us.
Under these truths I wrote, "I trust You and my walking by faith will be my guide as I am honored and purposed with being Your daughter. You did not call me to a life of mediocrity, but a life of passion."

I echo these words tonight and they are still as true to me today as they were then. I am praying for each and every one of you that God would bless you in your circumstance and that you would have the faith to trust Him.

"Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You." ~Psalm 63:3

Monday, March 8, 2010

Random Whatnot

Just wanted to share a few pics with you, and let you know how we're doing. In the black and white picture is Dr. Gupta, our oncologist, and our favorite nurse, Tonya, the insurance slayer. She argues on our behalf with insurance over EVERYTHING! Grrrrr.....insurance....I probably shouldn't even get started on that. In the other pic is Steve and Cathy, who gave Jenny her PET scan last week.
We had a great weekend. I can truly say that we were more stressed about trying to beat the bonus 9th level on Super Mario Bros. Wii than we were about cancer. Seriously, I'm not joking. Cancer talks came up a couple times. How to beat a level full of bomb-ombs and pirhana-plants came up about fifty. I thank God for a wonderful wife who is strong, beautiful, and funny. A sense of humor is going to go along way in beating this thing, and there is no shortage of that around our house.
I also thank God for family and friends. Friday night we had dinner with our family. It was great! The food was delicious and the conversation light and fun. We had a great time. As for friends, God could not have gifted us with better ones. At the time of this post, we have 33 followers on this blog, and I would love to reach 100. I know that we are being prayed for not only by so many people here in the states, but across the world as well. It's wonderful having so many people in the mission world in your life. One email, one text, and next thing ya know, a thousand people in a country you've never even stepped in are praying for you. God is amazing. Thank you soooo much for your support.
Tuesday is our heart/lung test to make sure Jenny will be able to stand the chemo. Wednesday is our follow up visit with Dr. Gupta to find out what stage we are in and what kind of treatment options will be available to us. Please pray for a good result from our CT scan, and that God will continue to provide us strength. We love you, and we thank God for each of you. --john

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions

We went to our oncologist (Dr. Gupta) yesterday, and had alot of questions answered. He was everything we wanted in a doctor (very intelligent, caring, and hilarious), and we could not have been given a better person to help us on our journey. I realize that there will be a ton of questions that people want to know, and we'll do our best to answer them as they come. But, to get us jump started, I'm going to answer a few now. If you have more, let us know in the comments section and we'll try to get you an answer.

What is Hodgkin's Lymphoma? Lymphoma is a type of cancer that spreads using the lymphatic sytem of the body. There are two types, Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's. Although Jenny is very special, she has a common form of Hodgkin's, nodular schlerosis.

What is the survival rate for this type of cancer? While this is a question everyone thinks and doesn't want to ask, quite simply, we don't care. Hodgkin's is curable, and we have every reason to believe that Jenny will be completely cured. Our faith is our comfort, our support, and in this case, our ultimate faith is in our Healer.

How do you treat Hodgkin's? Depending on the stage of cancer, treatment varies. Our doctor thinks Jenny to be in Stage I or II. She will have to go through chemotherapy for a few months, and then finish up with radiation treatments after that. We are not sure of the exact treatment, but we will find out more on Wednesday of next week.

Will the chemotherapy make her sick? Many of you know that Jenny's ultimate fear is vomiting. Chemotherapy can make you get sick, but there are a ton of new drugs that help with nausea. We are praying, and ask you to pray, that her body reacts well to these drugs and keeps her nausea at bay.

What are other side effects of chemotherapy? Chemotherapy effects everyone different, but common side effects include nausea, weight loss, fatigue, and hair loss. Jenny will lose her hair, but since I married someone out of my league, a bald Jenny will still cause many people to wonder how in the world I managed to marry someone so beautiful. Go figure, I just can't win! :)

How long will it take for her to get better? Again, depending on what stage she's in, the treatment will vary. We are planning a birthday blowout, as we are planning on being cancer free by Jenny's birthday on August 15th.

Will Jenny have to quit her job, or will she be able to work? Dr. Gupta told us Jenny can work during treatment if she is able. This may mean she can work from home, because her immune system will be compromised. Her fatigue will be our main barometer, because we don't want her to get sick.

How can we pray for you? Please pray for complete healing, contagiously good attitudes, and a podium from which we can share our faith. We are not made to live a simple life, but through our actions and attitudes during the hard times we are made to live out and share our faith. Pray that we are able to live what we believe, and in doing so, that we grow closer to God, and closer to one another as a couple.

We thank you so much for all of your prayers and support so far. Your emails, texts, phone calls, and facebook posts have made this time very special for us. We are blessed to have family and friends who care so much. One last question may be "Why is your post labeled We Kicked Cancer's Butt? in the past tense?" I thought about the title for a while, and the past tense is intentional. No matter the outcome, no matter what happens, cancer and any other life-threatening disease has lost. We have a victory through Christ, and that is all that matters. So, in a sense, we already kicked cancer's butt. We love you, and we thank God for all of you. Until next time. --john

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"the results are in...

....and it's not good news". jenny's words echoed in my head over and over today. she called me on the way home from work, wanting to give me a few minutes to get acclimated to the idea. most of you won't hear or read this for a few days, but that's to let us get acclimated to the idea as a couple. if you're reading this, then here we all are, at the beginning of our journey.

we took jenny to the emergency room last week because she was having trouble breathing. after running some tests, they decided to give her a ct scan. that's when they found a mass in her chest, and we had a biopsy done this past friday.right now, all we know is that it's hodgkin's lymphoma. we found out today (Tuesday, March 2) around 2 p.m. our first appointment with our new oncologist is tomorrow morning at 8:30. we're gettin this party started quickly, and we want to know and do everything we can as soon as we can.

so, here we are. we're going to keep everybody updated through this blog. post questions in the comments section, and we'll get to you as soon as we can. we know that this will be a challenge, but we know that God will not test us with anything that we cannot overcome. it's real. it's scary. it's in God's hands, exactly where we want it to be. keep us in your prayers, and we'll keep you up to date as much as possible. we love you. -j&j
First I just want to thank everyone who is viewing this site. I am so blessed and thankful that I have such strong support from all of you. Obviously this news is not what we wanted to hear but as crazy as it may sound, my heart is full of thanksgiving. There were eight days between a trip to the emergency room where we first became aware of the mass and the potential diagnosis and the day when we actually received the diagnosis. Eight days felt like a lifetime but I clung to Psalm 34 and read it over and over and over again. It gave me such incredible peace during those days and it gives me peace now.

I will extol the LORD at all times;
His praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt His name together.

I sought the LORD, and He answered me;
He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame...
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
and He delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him...
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The LORD redeems His servants;
no one will be condemned who take refuge in Him.

The entire time I was in the hospital getting my biopsy and the tests that followed, one line kept running through my mind - "Taste and see that the LORD is good." I believe with all my heart that He is good. I have known this my whole life and have never doubted. He chose this path for me, He ordained every one of my days before I was even conceived. I have absolute trust in Him. I know this road will not be easy but He is faithful and will give me everything that I need.

I appreciate all the prayers that have already been said and the prayers that will be said. Your support and love mean the world to me.

"Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt His name together."
All my love,