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! 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,