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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nov 29, 2016





Emotionally spent.  That about sums up how I feel.  Physically, I feel fantastic.  I am running again and that feels great.  I sleep well.  My body feels strong.  But my soul is starting to feel exhausted.  And anxiety pokes its head out from time to time.  This “job” of being a cancer patient is starting to feel tedious and unrewarding. 



I was listening to music the other day and an Owl City song came on and used the phrase, “when it rains, it pours.”  I feel like it is pouring in my life.  I had not “regained myself” after such an intense year of mothering infant twins and it leaves me wondering: How on earth am I going to be able to do this?  I am trying to figure out how to prioritize myself.  I have not figured out how to create spaces of quiet, of reflection, of meditation, and of prayer with the pressing of my family demands. I want time to be still; but the reality is I have daily treatments and I am still mom to 3 small children. So how do I find S P A C E?  Where can I retreat?  Right this moment I have retreated to my bedroom and yet Garrett is supposed to be napping in our closet, his makeshift bedroom, and he is not sleeping and my retreat zone is punctuated with cries.  And this is simply real life with one year olds. But, it is my prayer to be able to find a “place in the wilderness” to retreat to as Jesus did.



Sunday morning was a small, precious retreat for Ryan and I as we attended church while my mom watched the twins at home so we could be fully present in the service.  It felt powerful to be amoungst other people who believe boldly in the power of God.  And through out the service I was reminded to reflect on Advent.  We are in a season of peace and hope and joy and expectation.  God says, “My timing is perfect. I do not want you to suffer my child.  I will hold you through this. And I give to you afresh the gift of Christmas as you enter this season of healing your body, soul, and mind. I am so much more powerful than you could ever imagine, even as you begin to open yourself to my power, I am infinitely more powerful than that.”  My friend reaffirmed the promises of Advent for my life through an email later in the day.  Furthermore, the pastor spoke on prayer on Sunday, specifically one point was that the power of prayer comes from having a history of prayer.  I pray today because illness stares me in the face and its only worthy opponent is God’s mighty power.  However, I have been praying to this same God for years.  How fortunate I am to have a history of faith, spiritual support, and prayer.  And how ultimately comforting that my prayers extend beyond natural timing such that they have the power to go forward to touch my childrens’ lives even when I am no longer able to physically hold my kids.  My kids, I am praying for you in the name of a very powerful God!



I’ve been reminded that God battled for David to fight a giant and He will fight this giant with me too.  I am reminded that God has spoken: “ The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10) And that I can rest because God has promised, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91)  This is what I need. Shelter to be able to truly rest, a warrior prepared to do battle for me, and the promise of full life. 



So that’s my emotional and spiritual update.  As for the nitty gritty of daily life, here’s that update (sorry I don’t have much energy left to recap these so they will be brief).



Disney was absolutely fantastic and incredible.  I didn’t think about being sick at all.  I felt completely “normal.” Which made it a bit of a shock to reality when we arrived home at midnight on Wed and entered a full morning at the Cancer Centre on Thurs. including my first radiation. 



So far I’m tolerating my chemo and radiation just fine.  As I mentioned, physically I am doing great!  So thankful for that. And I’ve even started driving myself to radiation as I was given the all clear to drive.  This substantially frees up Ryan’s time.



I am thankful for:

- my parents visiting to help out.

- my physical health being so great

- my friend inviting me to an upcoming Advent retreat at Cultus Lake





Requests for prayer

- emotional fortitude

- Being able to find spaces to rest

- the radiation and chemo to find out and destroy all stray cancer cells



Thank you again, everyone, for joining me in this journey.

A letter to Rayna

I had not planned, when I wrote this, to share it publicly.  However, more and more the humanity of being real, genuine, authentic....whatever you want to call it, is increasingly important to me.  I want to share with you the beauty of the time Ryan and I were able to spend with Rayna on our trip to Disneyland.  (In doing so, this serves as a big THANK YOU to our parents for watching the twins, allowing us to make this trip.)  Apart from what I share below, two highlights were attending a drawing class which Rayna took so seriously as she has aspirations to be an art teacher and being able to snuggle with Rayna in her bed in the hotel in the morning as Daddy was working on waking up.

To Rayna:

Rayna, thank you so much for inspiring us to plan a Disney mini getaway.  Because you probably won't remember many details in years to come, I want to remind you of what a lovely, awe-filled time you had. Indeed, it was magical for all three of us.  We didn't have to try hard at all to have a fantastic time. On our second day, walking to Disneyland you said, "this is the nicest place in the world."   It blessed my heart to see your love for meeting the princesses. You wanted to meet them all.  I loved going with you to meet them and watching you light up as they waved at you during the parades.

Rayna you are such a special, delightful girl and I am so thrilled that this treat for you was such a special time for me too.  I enjoyed myself so very much.  I loved the Anna and Elsa performance, the "paint the night" nighttime light-spectacular parade, the Mickey Ferris wheel, the Christmas parade, and all the beautiful Christmas lights and spirit.  You, Rayna, are such a blessing for encouraging our family to have delightful times.  You love airplane rides and are always ready for an adventure- even if you appear very serious as you take in all the sights and sounds of the adventure.  What touched my heart preparing to leave for this trip, was when it fully sunk in that we were leaving Garrett and Allison at home.  You were sad to leave your brother and sister behind.  You are so sweet and caring. It is way more than I would expect from a 4 year old and yet it exemplifies your genuinely loving, caring, generous and compassionate characteristics.  Never lose touch with these traits Rayna.  I believe they are defining for you and will allow you to richly bless others.  You really are special in this way and it is beautiful.  Today we saw so many beautiful princesses and yet the beauty within your heart far surpasses the beauty of those princesses. Never forget you are beautiful. I tell you daily you are beautiful and I mean it and desire for you to always remember it.  You are so special that you most often reply, "you're beautiful too mom." (This is in addition to the random compliments you give me telling me I am "the best mom ever" at least daily.)  And I know you mean it. Thank you.  It inspires me to be the best mom possible for you and Garrett and Allison.  That is what I want so deeply, to be able to keep being your mom with all that includes. To teach you, encourage you, have fun with you and to learn from you. You have already given me these dear gifts and I petition God to give me many more opportunities for more teaching, encouragement, fun and learning.

This Disney trip has come at a pivotal time in my life; but the joy of it truly is a reflection of the joy you bring to mine and your fathers lives on a daily basis.  It really was so good to greet princesses and take in in all the spectacular performances and displays.  Thank you Rayna for keeping my days bright. It certainly is not your responsibility; but, inevitably it happens.  You are so loved my dear precious daughter.  I want to hold you and kiss you and somehow make sure you remember these lovely times we are sharing together - both in daily life and in the extra special times such as Disney.

Love you always,

Mom


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rain on my parade

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and encouragement. I have been encouraged to keep my head up and to look up, and I find the play on these literary terms remarkable: the secular uses these phrases in a passing way of encouraging optimism while we as Christians know that the whole reason to keep our heads up is to fix our eyes on the One who empowers.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬ 

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of God."
Reference: somewhere in Hebrews I think, my internet is spotty so I'm having trouble looking it up :)

This second verse I memorized as a preteen at camp and can recite it still. It is so meaningful as it turns my eyes to Christ, reminds me of his power to conquer death, and focuses my attention to joy in the unbearably difficult.

I want you to know that through encouragement I received yesterday and the experiences of today I have adopted the following motto: "No one can rain on my parade."  

You see day 1 of California has been cool, rainy, and much too reminicent of BC weather. However, we had a lovely day today despite this weather. AND we had a nice time at Disney despite getting soaked and them cancelling the parade that Rayna and I were so looking forward to (Though really I did question why rain necessitated a cancellation- guess I'm a true west coast girl now!) And I don't usually pray on the weather front but my prayer life has entered all realms lately so I can honestly say that I had a good day today but I am praying for dry tomorrow­čśŐ

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Spiritual Attack


Nov 19 2016



Today I face a spiritual battle.  My spirits have been dampened.  I’ve felt discouraged.  This is despite feeling great physically.  The neurologist gave me the all-clear to run, so I added some run intervals into my walk yesterday and it made me feel alive!  Today we pack for Disneyland and anticipate an unparalleled experience with our delightful firstborn daughter.  We are going to the place where dreams come true!  God answered prayer and we have hired a nanny who we are thrilled to welcome into our home and lives.  I’ve got a naturopath lined up. I really like my oncologists and feel encouraged after leaving the cancer centre.  I had a lovely visit with my sister, who flew out for 3 days, this week.  Everything feels like its working out so well, and then I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling down. 



I had a message from my close friend asking how I was.  As I replied to her, I came to realize Satan is trying to steal my joy.  But it is not his to take.  I invited my close friends to pray against this spiritual attack of discouragement.  I invite you to do the same.  This is a new realm for me; but it is beginning to feel very real. It is spiritual warfare.  I claim the promises of God and intend to stand on them.  I stand on the powerful name of Jesus.  Daily I have much to rejoice in.  These are the joys of now:



-       Starting to run again!

-       Finding a nanny who is extremely flexible and lovely

-       Feeling like I’m “normal”, I don’t feel an ounce sick.



Prayer requests:



-       Spiritual strength and wisdom, there is a lot to my faith and to spirituality that I    have never explored before

-       A delightful and relaxed time in Disneyland

-       Health for my family, we are in cough and cold season

-       Wisdom in discerning diet choices and resources to implement them (I’ve started a no grains diet, but am still trying to sort the finer details out and figure out practical matters and how this translates into our whole family’s diet)


Thank you all for your support, love, concern, and PRAYER.  Each step the support surrounding me is more cherished and vital.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

My Plan of Attack



Nov 13/16

This past week has been filled with much exhaustion.  Initially after my diagnosis of glioblastoma I would wake at night overwhelmed with tears and sorrow.  I was full of grief for the loss of the future I had envisioned for my family.  These moments still surface as their reality is a lurking possibility; however, my continued lack of sleep is not due to sadness, it is because I have so much to do – so much life to live.  I certainly have things to sort out in the immediate future to ensure optimal health care; but, more crucial (and fun) is that I have things to sort out to ensure I fully live.  I have always been one to strive to make the most of all times.  Holidays have been squeezed in with usually no buffer days to return to work, so as to optimize vacation time.  We have done so much with the twins even though it was so very difficult to travel with them.  We don’t sit around waiting for things to happen, we strive to be proactive to create these memories.  We have been blessed with good professions so that we have been able to have finances for frequent lovely trips.  However, we have also created many, many local adventures, taking in all our city and surrounding area has to offer such as hiking, playing at the lake, cross country skiing, trail running, playing tennis and playing pickleball (this one is Ryan’s exclusive as I certainly did not catch the pickleball fever).  And these are just the initial things that come to mind.  In Ryan I have found a partner who doesn’t let what others are doing dictate how he chooses to live his life.  This has been a foundation for us for making choices that proactively allow our family to thrive.  In the past year of challenges mothering twins my prayer was this: “God grant me wisdom, patience, love, tenacity and the power to THRIVE.”  And you can count on this: thrive we will.  God has been faithful to our family for generations.  He will continue to be faithful.  (ps. Ryan and I are taking Rayna to Disneyland next Sunday for a couple day! How exciting!!!)

There are many questions in this.  Supernaturally, I have not been inclined to ask, “Why?” but I know many do.  My response that I gave to a friend on facebook that I would like to document here is this: The only way it makes any sense to me is to focus on what a fabulous 35 years I’ve had (though really tough last year raising twins!) and acknowledge that every day is a gift, why some people get more gifts than others….who knows, right?  Life isn’t “fair”, that’s for sure. BUT I’m sure I’m gonna make the most of what I’ve got!

People also don’t know what to say.  This is understandable.  My response: There are no words, it’s crazy and messed up; but, “it will be okay.”  Those are the words my mom told me when she was diagnosed with cancer.  I get it now.  God gives hope, strength, and LIFE. So keep praying!!!! 

My plan
Strengthened by people and prayer

I have formulated a plan of attack, people and you are a key component.  I can not do this without you.  You empower me.  To be honest, when I first realized how far my blog was reaching I was intimidated.  What I say is being read by so many people and I am but human.  Know this, I am just like you: struggling to connect with God.  Yes, my faith is powerful; but at the beginning of my diagnosis I felt so distant from God.  It was the prayer of 2 close dear friends (plus countless others I’m sure) which drew me to Him.  God is using you, my friends, in my story.  You are not bystanders, you are co-authors.  Thank you!!!!  I covet your prayers.  I have days of exhaustion where my requests to God are but whispers.  On those days I lean on your prayer of intercession for me. 

In my prayer, I ask God specifically to destroy these cancer cells.  I have a degree in biochemistry with some education in cancer molecular biology.  So I pray specifically against what I know cancer needs to survive.  I pray that these cancer cells would be cut off from blood supply.  I pray they would forced to conform to the check points which keep regular cells in check.  I pray that their division would be halted such that they would wither.  I pray that these rogue cells would know they have no home in my body.  NONE.

Visualization    

Subsequently I visualize this destruction of cancer cells happening in my body.  God has given us an amazing and powerful mind.  I intend to enlist it in my fight.

Exercise

I love fitness.  Daily exercise is inviting to me and yet with my family demands has proven challenging to fit in.  However, it is my goal to implement daily fitness.  This empowers both my mind and body.  I love being active and always strive to serve as a role model to my kids in this.  Now is no different.  Our bodies were made to move!

Diet    

I have always maintained a relatively healthy diet avoiding junk food.  However, my plan of attack involves stepping it up by emphasizing organic fruits and vegetables.  Again this feels like a bit of a challenge as we figure out how to procure this produce in a practical way, but it is becoming a priority.

Complementary treatment   

I have limited time to research therapies.  My background as a pharmacist certainly directs me to put confidence in traditional western medicine.  However, I see value in other modalities as well.  Evidence suggests acupuncture can be helpful in improving energy and reducing nausea in cancer treatment.  I view this therapy as a physiological approach and welcome it.  I plan to seek guidance from a naturopath with the intention of counsel on lifestyle changes and implementation of acupuncture.  I have no interest in herbal therapies as I know they have the power to interact with traditional medicine.

Chemo and Radiation

I will have 6 weeks concurrent Chemo (oral at home) and Radiation (5 days a week in Abbotsford) treatment, followed by 6 months continuation of chemo (likely to start around Nov 24).  The forefront major side effects will be fatigue, nausea, hair loss.  My plan is to continue to live life as I have been, just perhaps in an attenuated fashion with naps.


Today I am thankful for:

-So much!!!!  Life is good!!! I am thankful for these days before the treatment will start wearing me out. 
- Visits from friends and family
-the incredible support we are surrounded by
-Taking my 4 year old to Disneyland next week!!!!!

Requests:

-prayer for getting a nanny sorted out.
-prayer for the radiation oncologist on Monday as he makes the plan of where to radiate my brain.  This treatment plan is crucial!
-prayer for our kids understanding (supernatural understanding for the twins I suppose!) as my treatment rolls out and I’m tired and start looking different (hair loss etc.)

Today I leave you with these verses from Ephesians 3:14-21 which I have referenced in a previous blog, that were highlighted to me in summer.  Let’s rest in them:

14 When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[e]15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[f] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Answered prayer

Thank you all for praying. I got a call this morning that my oncologist appoint would now be Tues. (1 week earlier than originally booked). I was feeling good about that when 5 min later they called back with a cancellation for TODAY! I'm on my way to meet the oncologist now!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Nov. 8/16

Today I request prayer surrounding my appointment date with the oncologist.  My referral to the Cancer centre was delayed (the paperwork fell through the cracks) which I feel will not be a big deal if they expedite matters now.  However, my current initial appointment date with an oncologist is set for Nov. 23, 5 weeks post-op.  From my reading and talking to a knowledgeable friend, this may not be optimal and treatment should likely begin almost immediately.  We have pressed my GP (who is actually a brand new GP locuming for my physician who is away until the 17th) to persuade the neurologist to contact the oncologist which is apparently the only way to be seen before my given appointment date.  Pray that I will be given an earlier appointment date with the oncologist and be able to begin treatment promptly.  


Today I am thankful for:

- A calmness that is starting to enter daily life (may it translate into good nighttime sleep!)
-  Family dance party after supper!
- Warm sunshine
- An amazing husband to journey with

Monday, November 7, 2016

Nov. 7/16

I found this promise in my journal that I heard God speak to me in August; I embrace it:

TRUST that you will be blessed to jump into the water (context is having a wonderful time "playing" in the lake - one of my most favorite places to be) and celebrate joy with your family in years to come.

I dream of teaching my kids to waterski and pray for the opportunity to do so.

What I am thankful for today:
-morning snuggles with Rayna before the twins got up.
-"meeting" a new friend who is also a twin mom of babies and battling cancer
-Watching Rayna teaching Allie her ABCs by pointing to her alphabet wall decals and singing the ABCs while Allie absorbed her lesson intently.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Diagnosis


Promises.  I have been given promises, hope, and truth.  They are not as I expected or desired.  Indeed it is hard to fathom my diagnosis: glioblastoma.  Nasty, aggressive brain cancer.  In the deep sorrow of grieving the future I had envisioned for my family, I remain steadfast. 


I am promised in Joshua 1:9 that I needn’t be afraid or discouraged because my Lord and God will be with me wherever I go.  In Psalm 118:24 I am reminded to Rejoice in this day that my Lord has given me.  I am brought to a place where I rest in how much I have been GIVEN.  I am in a place where I am ready to fight! With prayer and with determination!  I feel so very good right now and I am ready to LIVE.  I have always lived my life with no regrets, full-out, now is no exception. 


My dear friend shared these words with me about cancer:  Cancer is so limited.  Remember this. It cannot steal joy or love or family.  It cannot take your faith.  It cannot destroy peace or kill friendship.  It cannot shatter hope or steal eternal life.


I have a powerful, mighty God.  I invite you to join me in praying to Him.  Join me in asking for a miracle to destroy all these rogue cancer cells in my body.  Join me in asking for years ahead to spend with my cherished husband, children and friends.  Join me in praise to the Giver of life who has given me 35 blessed, blessed years.  Join me in the sorrow, but ultimately in the hope.  In this bad news is the good news; the news of a Savior who gives life in its fullness.  I trust that in days ahead I will “experience the love of Christ…and be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” (Ephesians 3:19)  


In these days I have been greeted with beautiful humanity.  I have a core of precious, precious friends who surround me.  These friends are in addition to the strong support of both mine and Ryan’s family. And beyond these relationships people are reaching out: coworkers, acquaintances, strangers.  It is a beautiful display of love; it is Christ’s love reaching out through meals, childcare and petitioning unrelenting prayer and intercession on my behalf.  Oh how beautiful it is!


Truly I have tried to put words to a situation that has no words good enough to describe.  Thank you for journeying with me.  You are invited to journey with me here as I update you on my medical situation.  If you would like to automatically be emailed my posts please send me your email address through comment or to cheryl.rostek@gmail.com