I remember, like it was yesterday, holding her shell of tender skin in my callous hands. Each day I would come home to hear some new thing she did or learned. She grew to know my sweat-soaked, musty, saw-dusty smell. I once heard, “This tree smells like Dad”, as if her little mind viewed my earthy aroma scenting that mass of creation.
Time flew. Children grew. She led the way to all things new. She carried the weight of being the big sister and the oldest child. She carried the weight of expectations; from parents and grandparents and more; of how our children should live out their faith, perform in school, choose their friends, or otherwise behave. She carried the weight of the hardest chores, changing diapers, driving kids around and more. She rarely complained.
God knew that being the first would require courage and He made sure she had it. Being the first of 5 children in a 7-year span would require initiative, and He made sure she had that too. She cut her own path and made important things happen for herself knowing we couldn’t provide the help others her age often got from their parents. God uniquely gifted her to be first-born.
Last Thursday, Tara and I dropped her off at school eight hours away. What I thought would be emotional turned out to be an exciting time for me. Okay, it was a little emotional. But I remember how I felt 29 years ago when I went off to college. It was exhilarating for me. I was ready then. She is ready now.
My prayer is simply that God would reveal Himself to her daily and give her the courage to follow regardless of the cost. My fatherly instinct to protect her must now be curbed. I am no longer her daily fatherly influence, rather her Heavenly Father is. But my love for her will continue to grow as she will always be that precious first-born daughter that God entrusted to us for the past 18 years. I love her, I am proud of her, and I will really miss her.
I have not been one to mourn change. I mostly enjoy it and, in fact, thrive on it. But there have been changes lately that I’m not so sure about. I could lose hope without the hope of an immovable God who knows what tomorrow brings. There is not a day ahead that he had not seen. So I trust that the changes he is giving us are for our ultimate good.
Good news! Tara is done with the chemo regimen that started last April. The doctor is pleased with the progress. Her body and mind are tired of the repetitious punishment the chemicals have delivered A complete reprive would be ideal. But the medical team has recommended a maintenance chemotherapy that could go on for a long time but will be far less impactful to her energy level and overall quality of life. She’ll have to wait on 100% physical recovery for now, in exchange for these additional drugs to continue to pound on the cancer. The hope is a long term or permanent remission.
We rejoice that progress is happening and mourn that it is different than we wish. God, sustain us with your hope and joy. We don’t want to merely survive. Help us to conquer…..and more. These next words are life breathing for us at this time.
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It has been nearly a month since the last blog. For the most part Tara is doing well. The chemo regimen is growing old, which means that her numbers are good enough to get the treatment lately. We have had hope that August will be the end of it. Some doubt was cast about that at our appointment this week. Now we will find that out for sure in a few weeks when they do one more scan.
This summer went quicker than any we have had yet. The kids have all had a great and impactful 3 minths. Sports started for all of them (2 swimming, 2 cross country, and 1 football). School and church activities will be in full swing after Labor Day.
It is humbling to realize time doesn’t stop for anything. I don’t know if that makes me feel good or bad. I guess we aren’t the center of the universe after all. Sometimes I live like I am so this is a great reminder. Speaking of the universe (or at least our solar system) the solar eclipse is coming on Monday. My family and friends in Kansas City will get a total eclipse. Here in MN we’ll get about 90% eclipse . Like every natural phenomenon I witness, I am reminded that God is big. This one reminds me he is really big. He is not only the center of the universe, he holds the universe. Yet we have witnessed his grace, love, and compassion here in our itty-bitty little lives.
Good news this week. The scans on Wednesday showed no more cancer. Chemo will go on likely for 6-9 more weeks to ensure as long of a remission as possible. Then either some preventative drugs or a break from the punishment; not quite sure yet. We are thankful; that chemo is working; for your prayers and encouragement; for sustenance.
It was one of those days. I honestly don’t have too many of these but this was a perfect storm. I lost my cool with the kids. I was in the doghouse with the whole family for shooting the cat with a BB gun to prevent it from getting some baby birds (the cat was fine). I yelled at the dog for demanding Tara’s attention ( I think I was jealous). I had a really crappy attitude with my wife. And to top it off, I missed the fact, earlier in the day, that it was her birthday.
If I had a white flag I’d have been waving it as I crawled into bed that evening. I didn’t even wait for Tara as I was certain she wouldn’t want to talk to me. I laid there trying to sleep while I listened to her getting ready for bed. As she was near the edge of the bed I mumbled, “Sorry.” “What?” “Sorry for being liked this.”
Grace has been a concept known to me for many decades. While mercy is not getting what you do deserve, grace is getting what you don’t deserve. It is unmerited favor, typically by God, because people aren’t very good at it. I have always approached grace with thankfulness, and with my tail between my legs. But this night, Tara stretched my understanding of this beautiful gift.
She said, “It’s okay. I forgive you. You are not meeting my needs as a husband. And I know I’m not meeting yours as your wife. Why don’t we just enjoy the fact that we get to experience each other’s grace during this season. We extend it to each other.” Reveling in grace shouldn’t have been a new concept for me, but it was. It was beautiful and so relieving. Understanding God’s grace this way has been a joy to consider. The joy of experiencing grace is really good.
Tara has scans and chemo this week. Having missed the last two weeks, this round is the double dose. Big breath! We are optimistic and also dreading the discomfort Tara will experience. It will pass, we know. We will certainly get to extend plenty of grace to each other this week. I am more hopeful with that thought.
Last weekend was my parents’ 50th anniversary. What an impressive milestone. The day was affectionately themed “Fiddy”, slang for”fifty” as I had to explain several times. We are 18 months away from our 25th. I vividly remember my parents’ 25th. Time flies. I so look forward to growing old with my wife. I cannot imagine it any other way.
From the exam, the doctor is encouraged that the lymph nodes are continuing to shrink. They are not detectable by feel any longer. The CA125 is going down too. The white blood cells were up bit so Tara was able to have treatment Monday. It was over three weeks since her last one. While the treatment seems to be working, the infrequency of them means the chemo will go on through the summer. Evidently the amount of chemo administered is related to the length of remission. Keep treating!
Just tonight Tara has started to feel the effects of the drugs. It could be a long few days. These are times that remind us that we are dependent on something other than our own strength; Tara physically and me emotionally. We need something powerful this week and we are encouraged that we have what we need; that the eyes of our hearts know the HOPE to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, Edited from Ephesians 1:18-21.
Lewis and I were the first through that section of the river. It seemed harmless but I had seen ones like this before and knew the power it could have if it grabbed us. On the cutbank of the river which was only 10 yards wide, the luring strainer tried to draw in everything the river brought it. Lewis paddled hard when I instructed him. Five hard strokes is all it required once we rounded the shallow point. Very timed, directional and deliberate strokes.
Wanting to warn the paddlers coming I ran our canoe ashore and turned my attention to instructing the next canoe and two kayaks. It was too late. The other canoe was sucked in. The branches of the fallen tree stopped the canoe and the force of the water quickly overcame the upstream sides of the boat and just like that both paddlers were now floaters, and the canoe was a sinker. The first kayak observed the tipped canoe and made sure to avoid the peril. But kayak number two got sucked in as well. Very matter of factly I told her to get ready to swim. Seconds later I was rescuing her and her boat as well. Fortunately the water felt good and nobody got hurt. But the river’s power was humbling.
I deal with strainers. A few intentional strokes in the right direction could spare me a lot of trouble but often I don’t catch it. I get sucked in and my life gets tipped. These things make me so frustrated and often seem to have power over me, if I didn’t know better. Usually it has to do with my selfishness. It leaves me wanting a redo. Then real power steps in and saves the day, thank you Jesus.
Tara did not get her treatment again this week and she won’t next week as well. Monday the 19th is likely the next treatment, assuming all goes well. I guess we wait. In the meantime we are optimistic about the lowering CA125 number and the shrinking lymph nodes. All things considered it is going well.
God is good to us, allowing us to experience life in this depth, strainers or not.
Weeks pass quickly, just like they always have, only quicker. The pressing things get done and the remainder, well, those things get put to the side. I have begun to examine “the remainder” in my life more closely. I am finding that the remainder is full of things I say are most important to me: time with God, intentional spending (budgeting), caring for my body, investing in friends, and much more.
This past week Tara did not get her treatment due to her blood cell count being too low again. As a result she has felt much better. It’s amazing how bad those chemicals can make a person feel. We have mixed feelings every time a treatment is missed. We trust that this too is part of our faith development in the sufficiency of Christ.
How can we know in advance what is best? We can’t. The doctors can’t. We just wait for the results of blood work and then respond. But we believe a guy can know best if he says he will die and rise again, and then does it. And if I believe him for that, then I can believe other things he says too. “I know everything about you and care for every little detail.” “I love you so much that if you believe in me I will give you eternal life”. “You are blessed and will inherit a fortune (eternal life) if you are broken (poor in spirit, mourners, persecuted) and seek comfort and repair from me.”
Tara is doing well. Her smile is contagious. She is teaching me how to make sure “the remainder” are only those things which don’t matter, whether seemingly pressing or not.
There were times in growing our business that I questioned whether or not I could keep the pace; whether my body and mind could keep going day after day, week after week, month after month. It was hard. Everything was on the line, all the time. And I had to make it work. People were counting on it.
During those times Tara was so encouraging. She would affirm me and point me to the one source of true help, saying, “You are the man for this job. God gifted you for this moment and will give you strength to continue. Now go do what you have to do and I’ll be waiting for you when you get done.”
Tara was able to get her treatment on Wednesday. It has been several weeks since her body was up for it, so we were glad she was ready this time. By Friday morning she was feeling pretty rough. Today was particularly bad. Nausea. Vomiting. No energy. Very tired. Right now, she needs the same kind of affirmation and encouragement from me that she had given me through the years in business. But I am nowhere to be found. I am struggling to be here emotionally. I am working hard to get things done around the house and yard, and spending time with the kids. All are good things but I am missing the most helpful pieces; emotional support and spiritual leadership.
Where will I find help?
….Where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let our feet slip—he will not slumber nor sleep. The Lord is the shade at our right hand; the sun will not harm us by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep us from all harm—he will watch over our lives both now and forevermore. Psalms 121
Lewis turns ten today. Wow! Our baby is double digits. Time moves on, regardless of if we are ready for it to happen or not. He and I spent the last three days in the Boundary Waters trying out his new pole. He caught the first fish with it and fed us our first shore lunch. Don’t tell him, but the time away was purely selfish for me. I got to spend some great time with the finest young man I know. He sharpens me. We have so much fun together.
Micalyn and I also spent a few days away last week looking at colleges. As a junior, the decision is getting closer. She is so ready to spread her wings and I am so confident she’ll do great when the day comes. Time moves on.
I feel a bit guilty that I had so much fun for the past week. Fortunately (or unfortunately) Tara has not had to deal with all the side effects of chemo while I was away. She was not able to get her chemo again last week due to low white blood cell counts. Today she gets her blood work done again to find out if she is able to get treated this week. If she can, it will be Wednesday. It has been three weeks since the last treatment.
We are a bit discouraged. We feel that Tara’s body needs chemo to fight the cancer, but it is unable to take the necessary abuse. As a result, the treatment regimen is changing. She will get a big dose every four weeks and the smaller dose in between the big ones.
There has been good in all of it. In the two treatments Tara has had, the cancer numbers are going down already. So the chemo seems to be working.
This is the sixth week since diagnosis of the recurrence. Time moves on. We are humbled by the continued faithfulness and kindness of our friends. Christian or not, you model the nature and compassion of God to us. Your prayers and concern, the meals, the encouragement, and the service blesses us. We love you. Thank you.