382 days in a year.

June 13, 2014 was the very first day I ever blogged. I wrote 3 entries that day trying to cover the previous whirlwind our life had been overtaken by. I apologize for all of 5 he grammatical errors, for ending my sentences with prepositions, and atrocious spelling. I’d like to say some things have changed but I know I have already made a few mistakes in my first 66 words.

So here is my final update on this blog. I will not be adding anything after today and will only keep it to use a measuring stick for how far we have come.

370 days ago Bethany had surgery to put her port in. 365 days ago she went and got her haircut shorter with our dear Angela. 10448815_10152250682527810_5530739409479662944_n

During that haircut, Angela was not even aware that a year later she would have a 7 week old little angel in her arms. A lot can happen in a year. A year ago, Bethany was faced with a huge uphill battle. She had just finished round 1 of chemo (which was terrible) and it lasted over 8 hours.

Makena and I were in Michigan a year ago, enjoying much better weather than they are now. A year ago, Fishes and Loaves pantry had a blank white wall. IMG_5241-1-1

This time last year we were celebrating HMMS  and the great growth after a long and difficult year. This summer,  Bethany and I are both preparing for different jobs, with Bethany Staying and me moving on to a new school.

20150629_093312Who knew this guy would be such a huge part of our lives?

Or that we would move from our rental home of 3 years into our own place.20150412_144204

As Bethany and I reflected tonight on our celebration dinner, we recognize a lot has changed in a year. 382 days ago we prepared for today. Today was Bethany’s last dose of herceptin, a drug used after the surgeries, chemo, and radiation that rounded out the first al phase of her treatment plan.

Cancer. A year ago it was a crazy scary word. We knew then that God would get us through. We had no idea how many times and ways He would use y’all to help us. Looking back, I don’t even know how we made it through some of the days.

Here we are, doing normal things again. We paint, we build, take walks, plant stuff, go to church, hang out with friends, have cookouts, swim, and sleep in. Things have changed and things aren’t perfect, but we usually follow up our difficult days or worries with “at least it’s not cancer”. We are spending our summer giving the kids a normal summer, looking for ways to serve together, grow together, and love Jesus more. We are looking forward to what our long future holds .

Thank you thank you thank you my friends. #showyourGlory

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Finished.

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In a about 15 minutes, my wife will walk out of those doors a lot lighter. She may even float back to the truck. Today, my friends, the weight comes off. After 28 days of radiation, Bethany gets to walk out of 21st Century oncology for the last time!

There has been a countdown written on her bathroom mirror for how many sessions she has left. Today the mirror is clean. No longer does she have to look in the mirror and see anything hanging over her head or looking off to the side for the next round of treatments. Now she gets to see SURVIVOR and CURED!

I have not written for a really long time. It has been an exhausting journey. Each day we have been given new strength.  Each day we battle through smaller problems at work, or with our kids, or finding a new place to live. We have adopted a new way to deal with these and put them in place, “at least it’s not cancer”. It is remarkable how quickly my complaining and negativity changes when I think back to last July when Bethany made her video, or last fall when she was in surgery and then compare those things to the roadblocks we run into now.

My wife is healed. Cured. Recovering. She has the cutest hairstyle now and even went last week and got a haircut! Our kids have seen what it means to care for others first hand because of all of you that have prayed for us, cried out for us, cried with us, fed us, clothed us, and took care of us. I can always look back and will always point back to this time in our lives to tell them and anyone who listen, LOOK HOW GOD TOOK CARE OF US! LOOK AT THE MIGHTY THIS HE DID!

I have to go. She’s finished! #showyourGlory

Going out with a bang!

For the last 9 weeks, we have been blessed to have an additional member in our house. Aunt Nancy came out of retirement to come and sub for Bethany. after a successful career as a high school math teacher and counselor in the Columbus area, Nancy hopped into unfamiliar territory by teaching world history to some rowdy 6th graders. Talk about a double dose of shock! In addition to being Bethany’s sub, she became a friend to all of us, always ready to talk, listen to a story, or go see a movie. She watched football with me, hung out with memaw, and spoiled the girls rotten with skyzone trips, movies, happy meals and MOST IMPORTANTLY a listening ear. Nancy gave the girls what they needed the most. She cuddled, hugged , giggled with and loved on our babies. She helped out at church, did laundry, went to soccer games, and braved grocery shopping in Lehigh (even making multiple Wal-Mart trips). She covered for memaw while she was on vacation in Michigan and formed a friendship with my mom that will last forever. Bethany’s dad speaks of leaving a legacy….Nancy definitely made a huge impression on our hearts and we all are forever grateful. Last night was the end of Nancy’s stay with us. Her sister’s are coming into town soon and she headed off to stay with Bethany’s parents for a few days before her TRUNK OR TREAT adventure with Makena on Friday and a small celebration on Saturday. Bethany’s battle with cancer allowed my family to become family  to her and we are bonded now like we never would have been before. #showyourGlory

Makena is our oldest child at 10 years old. She has her own room. She has her own style, personality, and pre-teen attitude. She is growing into a young woman way too fast for me. She too has grown in ways that I never would have expected during Bethany’s battle. When Nancy moved in, Kena moved out….of her room. We created a little room with a few curtains, a bookshelf, a shower rod, and a sleeper sofa/futon. I can’t tell you how proud I am of my daughter and I definitely don’t give her enough credit for it. She gave up her room, privacy, independence, and safe zone for the last 2 months. I have a tendency to be hard on her when she doesn’t think about how her social plans (play dates with her best friend Erin) will impact the rest of the house. “It isn’t all about you Kena” is a statement I have made countless times. What I realized tonight as she moved back into her room is how much she does get it. She didn’t complain when I made her sleep on an old pull out couch. She didn’t ever complain about the dogs or the noise of all the adults being up for 3 hours after her bedtime. She  did not whine when I woke her up at 6:30 each morning getting ready for her work. She was giddy when we replaced the sofa with a smaller futon. She had her clothes in 2 closets, 1 dresser, and just hanging in random places. She gave up the comfort of her own bed for someone who was pretty much a stranger. It is only fitting that last night, her final night in that bed, ended in memorable fashion. A long 9 weeks ended with projectile vomit and sleeping on the bathroom floor. All she did was apologize for making a mess. I wanted Makena to learn that life isn’t about her and it has now dawned on me that she gets it more than I thought. #showyourGlory

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I haven’t been writing much because I am tired. the last 20 weeks have been a struggle, but the last 11 weeks since school has started have wiped me out mentally. I have wanted to share with you all what has been going on but I just haven’t had the energy to get the words out. Most nights, I don’t even have the words. Mainly just grunts and nods:) Bethany has been handling things much better. She completed her last chemo on October 10th. While we did celebrate, it was short lived because Bethany fought this chemo a little differently. Normally, Bethany gets loaded up with steroids from Thursday before chemo until the following Monday and Tuesday. She asked the PA if she HAD to take the steroids since it was her last chemo and the PA said she didn’t have to take them. She decided to take the side effects of the chemo rather than deal with the nastiness of the steroids. SHE HATES STEROIDS. This post-chemo session was rough. Food was a challenge. The nausea and vomiting happened this time around. White blood cell count dropped. Energy dropped. Things were rough and isolation from germs was a must. But she fought through it, Each day was a little better. Once the eating started, recovery really took off. Today is day 17. Today was supposed to be ANSWER day.

Bethany met with the surgeon today and gathered some more info on the surgery but we did not get a date yet. Bethany meets with the radiation doctor Thursday and is hoping to get in to see the plastic surgeon this week also. She is 2 or  3 weeks away from surgery. We are thinking the 6th/7th of november or the 13th/14th. Bethany’s birthday is the 5th. Please pray with us as we wait. The tumor is less than a cm in the breast. The original size of the tumor was around 2.8 cm. The chemo did well on that one. She was told that they will remove 6-10 lymph nodes during surgery and that they will be sent to pathology while she is still in surgery. What is found in the lymph nodes will determine whether or not radiation is needed.

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Dr. Romero being awesome

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I got busted taking pics here….I told the nurse “Fine, I am NEVER coming back to this place!”

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Staff supporting TEAM MORENO with a huge fundraiser.

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Student support too!

I have said thank you a lot the past 4 months. When you say something over and over and over, the words start to feel funny. It isn’t a bad funny, it just feels funny because thank you doesn’t cover how we feel. It doesn’t explain the relief for being able to pay medical bills when they come in. It doesn’t explain what it feels like when someone comes up and hugs at just the right time. It doesn’t seem enough when people show up out of nowhere and do things that just seem crazy.  We don’t deserve this. We shouldn’t have this much support (emotionally, financially……) The love shown to us is just a huge reminder of God’s grace and mercy. He heaps love on us even though we can’t ever be good enough. We don’t deserve the kindness. He just keeps loving. Every one of you that has walked by our side on this journey…..you were the hands and feet of Jesus.  Thank you so much. I pray that we get a chance to repay you someday.

Matthew 25:35-40New International Version (NIV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

It’s been a while.

Greetings to you all on this wonderful first day fall. Here in southwest Florida, we absolutely love the first day of fall. Today we saw temperatures in the low 80’s and it was partly cloudy.  The weather for our new season (not so hot season) is coming quickly.

I want to apologize to everyone for not writing more frequently. Our school year is back in full swing.  I can’t believe that we are already 6 weeks into our year. The girls are doing remarkably  well. Makinsley has adjusted well to her kindergarten schedule. Kaya is doing well in 3rd grade and as a defender on her U10 soccer team. Makena has 2 men for teachers for 5th grade (which is pretty cool right Mr. Perry?) and being the highest grade level in her school.

Bethany just finished round 5 of chemo on Friday. If you have followed our journey to this point, you have become familiar with the routine. This round went really well on Friday.  Counts are looking good and Bethany has handled treatments like a champ. She has been concentrating on nutrition,  hydration, and steering clear of germs. 3 months ago bethany started her chemo treatments.  Yes, she has lost her hair and eyebrows. Yes, her energy level depletes faster than before. The fight continues to grow. The strength continues to be there. This girl of mine is fighting hard and becoming excellent at these treatments.  In 17 days, she doesn’t have to be an expert anymore. In 17 days, we say goodbye to chemo

Screenshot_2014-09-23-22-16-48 This screen shot is from a Huffington post article I shared the other day on my facebook. 

I never expected our family to get used to cancer. It seems like just the other day we lived a life cancer free, but in my memory, this is the way it has been for a while. I don’t look at Bethany and wonder  where her hair is or when it will grow back. My wife radiates beauty with her bald head in a way I have never seen before. We schedule everything on the chemo calendar. We know each day what progress will be made. We count off each little victory. We know that by day 11, the hunger and the taste buds come back. By day 13, full meals are being consumed.

Those of you that have brought meals, you have been amazing. Our family survives the week after chemo because of your sacrifice.

Bethany’s aunt Nancy has been with us since the last week of August. After retiring as an educator in Ohio, Nancy has volunteered to teach Bethany’s classes and has been living with us and giving the girls extra attention when Bethany is recovering and I am running on E. Again, talk about sacrifice. She left her family, dogs, friends and beautiful state of almost Michigan to come help us. Mom and Nancy have helped so much with the girls while Shelley and Chris have been running the hospital -doctor shuttle.

There are sad days here. Days when Bethany can’t leave the room because her energy is so low or she can’t handle the smells of the kitchen. There are days when the whole world seems to be caring on and Bethany has to stay home. She stays home sometimes to avoid the pity looks or the stares. Sometimes she stays home to avoid the germs of being in large places like school or church. There are some folks who have disappeared and seem to have forgotten. There are some folks that knock our socks off by how hard they fight for us and continue to give and give. Some relationships have faded and some have flourished. We have definitely learned to stop worrying about the former and to cherish the latter.

She has made it to see Kaya play, watch our dear friend get baptized,  and to look at some houses. The soccer matches are tricky because of the rain or sun. Both bring their own health hazards. Church is a struggle because every handshake or hug could carry a germ that could send her into the hospital. Sometimes just the business and noise is too much if the steroids are still in her system.

Bethany has been able to stay in church though through podcasts from our old churches and current church. Sometimes I walk in to the room hearing Orlando’s voice fill the room. Thank you for delivering the Word to our home Summit Church.

Our faith has carried us to this point. Our landlords have not told us to leave yet (we switched to a month to month rental agreement while we try and find a house). The medical bill people are getting paid and seem to be happy. Bethany spends 5 days at the doctor during chemo week. We are pretty sure the deductible has been met, but we just keep paying when they ask. NOT ONCE HAS SHE BEEN DENIED ANYTHING IN THIS ROAD TO RECOVERY BY MEDICAL PERSONNEL. THE PEOPLE AT FLORIDA CANCER SPECIALISTS ARE AMAZING.

There is still not a whole lot we know about surgery. We are hearing anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks after chemo. We know it will depend on the white blood cell count. So we ask for you to pray for that.  Pray that the infection continues to stay away. We attribute all of theservice things to our Sovereign God watching and working through his people. We believe every one of you has been placed in our lives at this time to play a part. So all of you, keep praying. Please keep writing, keep talking, keep posting. Thank you to all the senior citizens buying the bracelets. I have students bringing change in a sock to buy bracelets.  Thank you for the giftcards, books, blankets, notes, gofundme contributions, and the continuing fundraisers. I wish how I could share with you all the opportunities we have had to talk about our Jesus because of cancer.

Friends, family, and folks I have never met:  We do not blame God. We aren’t sure what all the outcomes of this disease will have on our lives, but I can tell you our faith has never been stronger. There are new things on the horizon for us that only God can make happen……but we have seen him work before and will see him work again. If you get a chance, take a listen to the song below and in your prayers join with us and beg God “#show your Glory in our lives.”

Rooftops – Jesus Culture (lyric video):  http://youtu.be/4-gLdIO5G-Q

Muses of a Child of the King, Woman, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend, and Teacher

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So this is me, weary emotionally after the first time I shaved my head. Can you see the trepidation that is in my fake smile? This is sometimes how I still look, just with less hair. My muse of today is what you are about to read. Take it as you will, but remember I also have Breast Cancer, not arm cancer. 😉

This is my dilemma.

This is my body attacking me.

It’s sad.

Cancer took my life and has thrown all the makings of it UP into the air, the pieces landing where they may.

Soon I will be losing 2 parts of my body that for years I couldn’t wait to have.

Ironically, one of those is trying to kill me.

Even more ironic, they come in a pair so they leave as a pair.

Soon it will all be over, it /CANCER/  not me.

I again will have hair, eyebrows, and tastebuds that work.

I will go out and get a tan, no longer a creature of the night or indoors.

I will be able to have every 3rd Friday free ~ no Chemo treatments.

And again, Ironically, the one thing(s) I had to get rid of to survive, will be reinvented to the thing(s) I always wanted – only fake.  🙂

 

 

 

Also…… uh um, word of advice to those Curious Georges out there…

If an unknown female, who is wearing a scarf, has no eyebrows or hair that you can see, please don’t ask her if she has cancer and then proceed to ask what type it is. It’s like touching a stranger’s pregnant belly, don’t do it, it’s just weird. 

 

 

 

Counting chickens before they hatch.

I was driving to church last Monday night and thinking back 4 or 5 months ago when I had an opportunity to be the leader of our prayer meeting. And by leader, I mean I unlocked the sanctuary and turned the lights and music on.:) We met for about an hour and a half, praying individually for the first hour and then came together at the end for group prayer. My buddy John and I set up a table up front and covered it with bulletin board paper and we all wrote about all the things we had spent the last hour talking to God about. We rolled it up at the end and stored it in Pastor’s office so we could celebrate in a few months when our snow bird friends returned from there northern summers. I can tell you some of the prayers that have been answered. I can tell you about some of the prayers in the not yet category. It is so fun (and I mean fun like smiling while my jaw is dropping) to watch God work. ONE THING NOT ON THAT LIST WAS FOR GOD TO HEAL MY WIFE OF CANCER.

         Back in April and May, Bethany and I didn’t even think about cancer. We didn’t think much about sickness. Our extended family has seen their share of sickness in both the younger and older members. My dad has battled cancer already. Bethany’s cousin Hannah had a rough stay in the hospital a few months back. But cancer was the farthest thing from my mind going into the summer. Foster care, vacation, family time, and lawn care were MY major plans. Cancer wasn’t even a blip on the radar.

       Fast forward to June…..Cancer is on the radar. It is like that storm cloud that just hovers over the area. For those of you that have experienced hurricanes in Florida….It feels like we are experiencing the bands of the hurricane as it approaches. You can see the big rain band approaching. The air changes, the sky looks different, and as the band comes, you brace yourself.

Hurricane_Charley_Loop_Full This is a picture from Charlie in 2004. We watched for days as it came in our direction. When it came, it hit hard. It wasn’t a constant 3 day pounding. We got sheets of wind and rain, then some calm. We listened to the radio in the car when the power went out. We weathered each barrage of rain and wind and enjoyed the calm between the bands.  It is so similar to where Bethany is in her battle now. Hurricane Cancer has been on our radar for the last 2 1/2 months. Just like Charlie affected the whole state of Florida, this cancer has affected every part of our lives. Tonight, we sit in the eye of the storm. Everything is calm. Bethany is feeling pretty good physically. She is physically ready for tomorrow. But mentally it is tough. When you go through a hurricane like Charlie, the anticipation is not to bad because you never really know if the cone of uncertainty will bring the storm right to you. You know what could happen, but can’t be positive. Bethany knows what the chemo will be like tomorrow. She knows what to expect and how to battle the bands of nausea, panic, constipation, loss of appetite, fatigue, sadness, heartburn, and isolation. She also knows that we are about to get hit with the backside of the storm. The second half of chemo is going to hit her and she does not want to go through it. When Charlie hit, the news was saturated with everything Charlie. Local stations ran specials on it, national stations developed programs and flashed their breaking news coverage, everywhere you looked CHARLIE was there.

          Physically Bethany looks good and is doing great. She is tired. Her heart is tired. Her mind is tired. Cancer is not literally everywhere, but it stares her in the face everyday. So friends, she isn’t trying to avoid you, but she knows she looks different. She misses being just Bethany. This isn’t to gain anyone’s sympathy because we both have been overwhelmed by how much love and support. No one could ever say that ya’ll aren’t amazing. The love has been SWEEEET and CONSTANT. I don’t even know if I am doing justice to how she is feeling. I just know that she is tired and wants to be normal. 43 days. 6 weeks from tomorrow and the last round will end. It is so close. And I can say that because I am the cheerleader. I don’t have to hurt and struggle for the next 12 days the way she does. The plans we had our cancer free summer were very free and open. Our plans now are measured in 3 week increments with very specific parameters of how we will operate as a family.

Back to prayer night and the prayer banner. 5 months ago = NO CANCER What was God thinking back then? Thankfully, he knew about the cancer. He wasn’t scared. Not surprised. God wasn’t scrambling when the MRI came back. Nope. God saw this on Bethany’s life radar. He saw Hurricane Cancer and before it hit our radar…. and He knows when it will exit our radar. 5 months from now, I am going to be typing the same thing I started this paragraph. 5 months from now = NO CANCER!!!!! I have no idea what will be on our radar then. New job? New house? New struggle? New kids? New miracle? I HAVE NO IDEA what will be in our lives then. But I know God does. He will be there whispering in Bethany’s ear the next 12 days. “I’ll be your strength” “I have not forsaken you” “I am healing you” “You are beautiful because I made you” I can plan and plan but hurricanes come. Every hurricane I have been through has had its own mess to cleanup, but God brought me through each one. Bethany has been through other hurricanes and He has always brought her through them. Charlie delayed Makena’s birth 10 years ago……But look at the beauty that came from that storm…..#showyourGlory Lord as you bring Bethany through the backside of this storm.

 

 

Words aren’t enough

“All of the people coming to the house and bringing us food and clothes is overwhelming” Kena told me tonight as we ran to CVS to grab some prescriptions for Bethany.

“Is that a good overwhelmed or a bad overwhelmed?”i questioned, digging a little to see if she grasped the power of the word. 

We chatted about the reason why, her smile explained what she meant by her word choice and I thought I would pass along the fact that my 9 (soon to be 10) year old has summed up my feelings about the last week of life. 

Overwhelmed is used in this house to typically describe a week full of meetings after school, IEP’s and no time to rest. This is not how we are using the word. This probably isn’t even the right word to use.

I guess what I am trying to convey is this….I can’t figure out how to express the amount of gratitude and shock at the amount of help and support we are receiving. 

Just today- 

Another generous contribution from family on gofundme

BAGS full of clothes for the girls for school

A cash gift collected by our secret angels at school last week

Groceries

2 Meals plus 2 soups for our family

Shelley taking Bethany to IV fluids and staying with her all afternoon

Another surprise gift from a coworker at school

THAT WAS IN 1 DAY

Yesterday was full of  the same sort of generosity and love.

The day before that was the same thing. I had to pull of the side of the road when I received an email about a gift my lifelong (27 years) friend made to our family. 

How can I thank you all> How can I thank you for allowing me to solely focus on helping my wife walk to the bathroom or make high protein smoothies? How can I thank you for being the manifestation of God providing all we need to survive? Instead of worrying about money and bills tonight, I was able to go out and kick soccer balls around with all 3 of my girls.

I am dumbfounded. I am speechless. I couldn’t even tell Bethany all that happened today because I didn’t want to have her become emotional after her rough day. Her hear rate was elevated today at the check up. She is on pain meds for the bone pain. She spent most of the day in tears because sitting still hurts and moving is worse. 

We found out the cause of the bone pain today:

Neulasta is an effective medication to help shorten, but not prevent, post-chemotherapy neutropenia (low white blood cell count). Unfortunately, one common side effect is severe bone pain. It’s a growth factor, which means it works by revving up the bone marrow to produce more white blood cells. Since this is the cause of the pain, according to most experts, the intensity of the pain doesn’t change based on how many days after chemotherapy it’s given. 

I apologize to all of you whom I have not said thank you or my reaction was less then what it should have been. It is truly amazing to me that so many people from school have done so much.  With all that is going on at school, at church, and in the world we still have people asking non-stop how Bethany is doing. I will be as honest as possible when you ask. Don’t feel bad if I say she is not doing well. You took the time to ask and that is what I will pass along. I know you would help her if you could. Give me your smiles, hug the kids, and keep praying. She has made it through 2 rounds of the shot. This truly is the worst part of the treatment that I have seen. 

I watch my happy and relatively healthy and energetic wife (Saturday was a great day at her parents) morph into just a shadow of where she was 48 hours ago. She moves at a speed of someone 40-50 years older. Kena asked me tonight “Why does it hurt mommy when I touch her?”. 

Again, I can’t tell you enough how appreciative I am. God placed us here 2 years ago at HMMS for a reason. We thought it was to share Jesus with a 1000 kids a year. We had no idea how much Jesus you all would be showing us. Please don’t be shy with your instant messages Michigan people, sometimes your chats from a coffee shop are just enough to keep me going. If you are on the road and have time to kill, make that phone call. It means the world to hear from you. Tell me how your son recognized me on TV and called me Rocky. It is perfect.

 

And to my little brother, as your baby arrival date is upon us, please know we can’t wait to have this new bundle come into the world. We are praying for you, Grace, and Rosie. Way to keep increasing the hispanic population!

Everyday Bethany is going to get stronger. She misses being out and about with you and joking around. She knows the love that you are sending is real and that brings her to tears daily.

When you wake up in the morning and glance through this, please know that our hearts are happy and our God is good. We are so very thankful for having access to amazing medicine that is helping beat this cancer. Pray that Bethany drinks enough and that the pain would be manageable. Thank God for all the little ways he uses you. #showyourGlory Lord in a way that no one can explain but all can see.