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Monday, December 26, 2016

Update Dec. 26/16

I have been very tired the last week.  I had to learn how to rest LOTS in order to feel good this week; but, with pacing myself (and going to bed right after the kids!) and keeping activities spaced I have had a lovely Christmas.  It was so wonderful to see all three kids fully loving Christmas!!!  And today I have been blessed with a surprise abundance of energy!  Last week mild headaches and vision changes started (similar to before my tumor removal).  If these increase I may have to go on steroids (most brain cancer patients are on steroids post-op or during treatment, so I have done well!), but it is my goal to stay off them.  (I do not want the sleep issues and mood and metabolic changes they bring with them).  So I have been emphasizing rest and it seems to have paid off well.

That said, I have been thinking more about my "self-care".  I want to find weekly space to really delve into writing more (legacy pieces and maybe finish the novel I started years ago?!).  I dream of a place to retreat (since our place is too small to escape the noise of our family and my bedtime has been very early). My dream is a place at Cultus Lake, but really any quiet zone in Chilliwack, Cultus Lake or Abbotsford with a private space with a place to relax (ie. couch or bed) and a table or desk to write at would be wonderful.  I am exploring monthly spiritual mini-retreats, but do long for weekly solitude. 

So I will ask: does anyone have a space they are not using once a week, during the weekday daytime that they are willing for me to retreat to?

Blessings of Christmas:
-  The joy of our children and of spending time with extended family, both in person and via video chat
-  Playing in the snow and getting the twins outside and seeing them love it!!! (They kinda got a bit cooped-up when the weather turned cold and I started getting more tired a couple weeks ago, so this was refreshing)

Prayer Items
- For a suitable "retreat-zone" to come my way
- Thankfulness that I only have 8 more radiation treatments left!
- The twins have colds again, so far they are still sleeping through the night - pray this continues and that I continue to avoid the colds (I'm tired enough without getting a cold!)

Thank you for the messages I have received.  As I get more tired, it is difficult to always reply.  Please know that if I haven't replied, that I have still deeply appreciated your messages.  I am certain I do not even know the amount of people reading my blog; but, I thank you for journeying with me.  Also, I feel so surrounded by love and support when I voice a need and it abundantly gets met. Thank you!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Here's some family pics!

Photo Credit: Vicky Falk

Christmas Letter 2016

Joshua 1:9

“ Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 As I sit to write our Christmas letter this year and ponder the year gone by, January feels like an entire lifetime ago.  The places we have treaded this year seem impossible, but to know that they are true as evidenced in our current lives.  I’ll write this letter chronologically, since I know no other way to tackle the enormity of this year, and invite you to read my Advent Letter also, if you haven’t already. 

 Our year started in Saskatchewan.  We had not planned to travel with infant twins back to freezing temperatures; however, with the passing of Ryan’s Grandma Braun we welcomed the travel to be able to celebrate Grandma’s life and spend precious time with extended family.  Indeed, we had a lovely time.  After returning home Ryan’s parents headed to Florida, and my parents flew out to give helping hands with the twins (Ryan’s mom helped ALOT the first 2 months with the twins).  Our babies were all-consuming in these months, so after my parents left we made our way to Ryan’s parents’ for 3 weeks of sunshine.  Rayna LOVED absolutely every moment at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  We kept it simple, sticking around “home”, swimming lots, and a couple of trips to the zoo.

 In March, my parents returned for a couple weeks, and I don’t know what I would have done without them!!!  The rest of spring through July (which was chilly!) feels like a bit of a blur.  These were hard days with the twins. But, I started running again 3 days a week and Ryan kept on pickling (playing pickleball). Through out the year he has continued to attend tournaments whenever possible. We also attended Rayna’s dance performance in June.

 At the end of July we road-tripped for 3 weeks to Saskatchewan.  The twins kept it crazy, but Ryan and I managed to keep it together and Rayna, again, loved every minute (and we love this girl for keeping us going on the adventures we do like to go on!)  First stop was my parents with my sister and her family (husband + 5 kids) in tow.  Rayna has decided she doesn’t like Saskatchewan; unfortunately this trip she met Saskatchewan mosquitoes – in swarms!  However, our next major stop was a huge highlight.  We went to Camp Oshkidee in Meadow Lake Provincial Park (where Ryan and I were married and where Ryan grew up going yearly to family camp).  The logistics were pretty much a gong-show with the twins; but, by the end of the week we were indeed able to connect with some great people (Thanks Sheena and Jeremy for essentially adopting Rayna!) and Rayna loved the freedom the camp environment offered (she was able to go places “by herself”).  As always, God’s presence is evident when you are at Camp Oshkidee and I managed to receive a bit of spiritual fuel for the challenges ahead.    We were also able to connect with some of our extended family in Saskatoon, as well as our close friends, Brad and Ashley, and my friend from University, Erin.

 The end of August and beginning of September were lovely.  Our weather was fantastic and we were able to make impromptu trips to Cultus Lake (a favorite memory is when Ryan and I took the twins swimming there one afternoon when Rayna was at her Daycare which she attends 3 days a week.) I also started playing soccer again with the team I played on a couple of years ago.  This was my first consistent (weekly) “me-time” since the twins were born and it felt fabulous!!!

 By the end of September I was starting to experience dizziness.  I had also had an occasional migraine, which was new to me, but I chalked up to stress of mothering 3 kids.  I felt gradually more “funny”, and was starting to explore if it was because of vision changes etc.  Three days before my tumor diagnosis I had difficulty functioning properly at soccer and backing out of my parking spot afterward.  The next couple days I was struggling just to get food on the table for my kids, even with omitting outside time from our schedule.  Then on Wed. Oct 5 after pushing the twins while I went running (during which I was dizzy), I brought them to the playground, had them in the swings but could not figure out how to get them out.  This along with a funny sensation in my right arm (like it was dissociated from my body) brought me to call Ryan and head to the ER.  I was given a CT scan that day which diagnosed a brain tumor.  The next morning when we saw the neurosurgeon he gave us promising words as the tumor seemed to be contained.  It was removed Oct. 19 (gross total resection) and unfortunately when the pathology came back early Nov. it was cancerous (yes, the paperwork got lost but I didn’t really feel a sense of urgency given the surgeon’s initial impressions). And treatment (radiation and chemo) began Nov. 24.

 Now we are on a journey that I have been documenting on my blog.  Please feel free to continue to follow our journey there.  We have been blessed with so many beautiful encounters and wish to thank everyone who has shown such generosity with food, gifts, childcare, prayers and support. Unfortunately, I have not been able to respond to and thank you all individually, but we are truly grateful.  Some moments this journey seems unfathomable; but, we are surrounded in love and hope.  Also our kids keep us going (and of course keep us tired too!) and this is a blessing.  This last week I’ve been pondering Mary’s joy: “oh how I praise the Lord! How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me.  His mercy goes on from generation to generation to all who fear him.” (Luke 1: 46-50) Likewise, I am delighting in our children and that God has blessed us with “bonus” twins!

 I am tired these days from my treatment (I feel years beyond my age and have to pace myself so much).  But fatigue, indeed cancer or ailments, cannot steal joy.  And what joy we have at Christmas.  We invite you to join with us in taking tally of the blessings in your own lives.  It is truly our prayer that Christ’s joy is in your homes and hearts and well.

Much Love and Merry Christmas,

 Ryan & Cheryl,  Rayna (4 years old) Garrett and Allison (14 months old) Rostek  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Advent Letter 2016

Isaiah 32 & 35 (NLT), selected verses, emphasis mine (these are prophetic verses foretelling Jesus’ coming

 Look, a righteous king is coming!  Then the wilderness will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will become a lush and fertile forest.  Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field.  And this righteousness will bring PEACE. Quietness and confidence will fill the land forever.

 My people will live in safety, quietly at home.  They will be at REST. Even though the forest will be destroyed and the city torn down, God will greatly BLESS his people.  Wherever they plant seed, bountiful crops will spring up.  Their flocks and herds will graze in green pastures.

 The desert will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and JOY!

 With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees.  Say to those who are afraid, “Be strong and do not fear for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf.  The lame will leap like a deer and those who cannot speak will shout and sing! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness and streams will water the desert.  The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.  Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived.

 Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return to Jerusalem, singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with JOY and GLADNESS.

 John 3:16

 For God so LOVED the world that he gave his only son. That whosoever believeth in him shall have everlasting life.

 Conciseness and eloquence escape me my friends and family.  This is in light of the magnitude of what we celebrate going into the Christmas season.  The gift of Christmas is unparalleled.  I’ve been writing these Advent letters for years now.  I’ve acknowledged before the greatness of our God and the amazing wonder of salvation through Jesus.  I believe that Jesus came to earth as a babe, grew into a man, died for our sins, that if we believe we can be secured everlasting joy that does not cease and only grows when we leave this world behind.  But, listen to me.  LISTEN TO ME.    Without this belief, life is bleak.  Without my faith it would be impossible to embrace the Hope, love, joy and peace that I have been given and which I absolutely, daily depend on.  I stare death in the face.  (I am being stark; but I want you to know where I’m coming from and that this is what happens when I know that the average person who has my disease only lives for one year. ps. I do not intend to be “average” and invite you to continue praying with me on this front; but, these are the facts.)  My outlook could be so dismal.  My prognosis could zap the joy from my days ahead.  Many of you have mentioned how you are amazed at my attitude.  I’ll tell you that I don’t want to live with an alternative attitude.  Indeed, it is work for me to stay positive on a daily basis. But I choose to stay positive.  How? Ultimately and completely by my faith (through reading the bible, praying and spending time in community with other like-minded people) and by the power of God.

 Reread those verses above.  Jesus brings peace, rest, blessing, joy, gladness and love. The angels announce, “I bring you good news of great joy for EVERYONE!” (Luke 2:10)     

I feel my words’ inadequacies to proclaim how truly great this news is.  So, I pray; fervently I pray, that you too would experience this life-changing, life-giving, peace, rest, blessing, joy, gladness and love this Christmas.

 If you do not know God and his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who is given to believers, I beg you to open your heart and your mind to experience the hope, love, joy, and peace he gives.  That baby in the manager means EVERYTHING.   He changes EVERYTHING. Open your hands and your hearts to cherish Jesus' birth.          

 Now, because of this, let’s celebrate this Christmas in absolute extravagance of our hearts.  Let’s celebrate richly everything we have been given.  Throw the confetti up in the air.  Sing, dance, laugh, party.  This is worth celebrating! 

Psalm 31

I went to Psalms this morning looking for Psalm 23 and ended up at Psalm 31.  David's prayer reflects my own heart and gives words to the prayer I desire to bring before God:

For the honor of your name lead me out of this peril,
Rescue me God, for you are a faithful God.
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am in distress.

Your goodness is so great!
You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you.
You have done so much for those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the shelter of your presence.

So be strong and take courage, all you who put your hope in the LORD!

Update - Dec. 12/16

I haven’t given much of an update for a long time so here’s a recap of the last couple weeks. 

Going to the cancer centre every weekday has become like a “job” for me.  At first it was all new and so was more taxing.  Now it is just routine and this is a good thing for me! (Though certainly it does become tedious heading out there daily).

 My side effects from treatment are still minimal.  My hair has just started to thin out a bit (my hair loss will be patchy – just in the spots where the radiation hits my scalp; my chemo won’t cause hairloss) I am starting to get more tired, but it seems manageable as long as I get a solid night’s rest and have a few days a week where I get some quiet time/rest time during the day.  It’s more of a mental fatigue than physical so I don’t sleep during the day; but, my “soul” needs to rest/journal/recharge.  I do find that I am pushed to impatience much easier than usual and at times this is a challenge.  However, if I take care of myself by allotting my needed rest, I feel really good.  Last week was a challenge because all 3 of the kids were sick and so I didn’t sleep good at night.  I then found a bit of headache and mild nausea popping into my day; but again they were manageable.

 I am adhering to a low carb diet, but have decided to give myself much grace in this area.  I eat small portions of starchy foods, but am still really limiting them.  I am still trying to emphasize veggies and fruit.  I was finding that meal planning was just too onerous if I had such a rigid diet, and really I am unsure of the benefit of going full out low-carb.  Speaking of meal planning.  This is currently the area that is the most demanding (and cleaning).  I don’t like meal planning at the best of times, so now is even less fun.  Cleaning, I’m hoping to hire someone to clean.  I just need to find someone (we have a contact for someone in Abbotsford, but it would be nice to have someone local) and to figure out how to get my crew out of the house for the bulk of the time the cleaner is here so she can actually do her job!

 My parents were out for 3 weeks and they have just gone home. Ryan’s mom will now be helping us out a couple days a week and our nanny about 3 days.

So, people have asked how they can help:

1.  Meals are much appreciated! My family loves pasta dishes, so these are great; but, I’m trying to stay away from them, so meals that are protein focused (ie a chicken bake dish with a veggie) are also helpful.  Thank you in advance, I really appreciate everyone’s generosity with food.   

(I particularly have a hankering for some veggie soup if anyone happens to like making it/has some on hand.)

 2.  A referral to a local cleaner who would be flexible enough with my kids’ not so flexible schedule.

 3. Keep praying.  Prayer for God’s mighty power to encourage and strengthen me daily and destroy those cancer cells. I am also particularly encouraged when people send me messages to tell me how they have been praying.  I really enjoy connecting with people through messages.

Moments of thankfulness.

1. I am so delighted by my kids lately.  I have said to close friends how I have now reached a point where I couldn’t imagine not having 3 kids! (It was certainly not in my plans and has been a challenge during the twins’ first year).  I now feel so incredibly blessed as a mom (this is a whole blog post in itself…..)

2.  Playing in the snow with the twins and sledding with Rayna (the latter did give me a bit of a     headache, but was loads of fun!)

3. A visit from Ryan’s dear lifelong family friends

Requests for prayer

1.       Wisdom in balancing the desire to be socially engaged (particularly important for Ryan these days as that is how he gets recharged) with my need for rest and personal quiet time (which is how I recharge)

2.  Prayer that the chemo and radiation are zapping those cancer cells into oblivion

3. Prayer for nighttime sleep in our house (the kids! which would equal all of us!)