Who Holds the Future

Last week was another progress check week.

Bud had his scans on Tuesday and results appointment on Thursday. The doctor indicated that the scans show NOTHING NEW IS HAPPENING! We are so thankful again and again.

Those of you who have to have regular scans, know what a roller coaster that can be with your emotions; and I’ve even written about that before. But in all of that we never want to lose sight of sharing our gratitude about how God is working in this situation. He is always with us and is ever there to comfort and guide us. Should the news ever come back in a disappointing direction, this truth remains: He will never leave us nor forsake us.

As we remember where our path was just one year ago, the difference is so amazing. We had so few answers and were given such little hope. And even then, God was with us with His special comfort that doesn’t make sense to this world.

Bud tackles every day with energy and enthusiasm. He is able to to everything that he was before the symptoms appeared. Projects are on track–well, as on track as an easily distracted person keeps them. He is not hindered in serving families at the funeral home.

Thank you for your prayers through this process. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Him who holds the future. And He is entirely trustworthy.

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Double rainbow – SR 21 to Hornell 10/23/2018

 

Half-Way Day!

As many of you know, I (Linda) have been working on obtaining my funeral director’s license. I take classes through Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science.

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Last week was a milestone because it included HALF-WAY DAY! October 4, 2019 is the last day of my program!

Thank you for your encouragement and prayers! We’re on the backside!

Following Hope

For most of June, Bud and I spent our time in New York City.

The purpose of our visit was to obtain radiation treatments on the tumor in his lung. How did we arrive at this decision?

In May, the side effects of the clinical trial would not diminish within the protocol’s stated timeframe so the doctors removed him from the trial. At that point he continued with the “targeted therapy” drug according to the plan. However, way back in October we had gone to Sloan Kettering to obtain a second opinion on our treatment plan. During our visit with Dr. Wu, Bud asked him at what point we should consider radiating the tumor.

Dr. Wu advised us to go on the clinical trial and stay with it as long as there was progress. At such a time that the clinical trial was no longer a good option, then he would suggest radiating the tumor as well as any other sites that had not previously been radiated. On Tuesday, May xx Bud called Dr. Wu once again to see if he thought this would be the time to implement that advice from October. Dr. Wu called back immediately. By Friday we had an appointment to start the preparation for a simulation that would lay the groundwork for treatment.

Simultaneously we were working with the doctor in Rochester, asking all the same questions and seeking his advice as well. In all of the conversations and appointments a great deal of information was given out and at times it seemed very confusing. We saw clearly how practical it would be to get treatment in Rochester and the idea of doing this in NYC was overwhelming, primarily for me. We didn’t have a clear direction.

Finally, during a conversation with Dr. Wu Bud asked him the exact question that he posed to the doctor in Rochester. “What is the goal in radiating according to your plan?”

I will put both answers side-by-side:

Rochester: The goal is to get as much of the cancer as possible without hurting you. The idea is to get you as much time as possible.

Dr. Wu: I believe we can get all of the cancer. And the goal is to have you cancer-free, at least for a long time.

God does make the path clear when you ask Him to. Given those choices, Bud was drawn to the response that offered hope.

So, that response began the whirlwind lifestyle that characterized most of our June. Bud had the simulation done and went through 15 treatments. We were told that he could expect to feel some discomfort in his throat area and may become fatigued, but that hasn’t happened. The first set of progress scans will be in the two-three months after the last treatment. In the meantime, Bud has resumed the “targeted therapy” drug.

Throughout this process, we have been blessed with your prayers and best wishes. And we are especially thankful to our church family for addressing our lodging issues in New York. God has been apparent through the entire month, leading and helping us through all things.

Bud often says “I don’t want to get ahead of God’s story . . .” This journey truly is God’s story and we don’t know what He has in store for the ending. It has never been Bud’s goal to cling to life against God’s plan. (There’s an interesting Bible account about that which he’d be glad to share with you!) But it has been his goal to “press on.” He presses on doing those things that God wants him to do; and he sets his sights toward that “prize” which is not to be found in this world, but in heaven.

That said, we invite you to continue to watch and see what the Lord will do!

There is the miracle

This is a modest edit of my May 5, 2018 posting to “Mercies in Disguise”

The scans show that there is no growth of the existing (lung) lesion! And no new growth! Both answers to prayer.

Bud has been off the protocol for 26 days and they have been waiting for the side effects to clear up in order to re-start. However, they were not satisfied that the side effects had subsided sufficiently and determined that he is not ready to start the protocol again. Since he can only be off for 28 days, that decision essentially removed him from the clinical trial.

He will now begin the treatment that he would have taken in November, had a clinical trial not be available.

Our status reports will now be every 12 weeks.

Bud and I have been through at least one catastrophic event in our lives (two if you count the day of the cancer diagnosis.) When Caleb died of SIDS in 1987, that was a catastrophe such as I had never imagined. The emotions were overwhelming; time was forever marked by that day. But the thing about a catastrophe is that it happens and immediately thereafter, the healing begins. The event keeps your mind preoccupied for a time, but a new normal settles in and you begin to adjust to the reality that you now have.

I have pondered the contrast of catastrophic events and chronic events since that time. One is called on to pull out different resources to manage each. Many of us have had at least one time of wondering how we would handle some type of tragedy. Perhaps we’ve tried to stand in some else’s shoes and walked ourselves through how we would like to handle a certain type of event. I know that when I heard of people dying, I always hoped that I would have the spiritual fortitude to look to God for my comfort and to praise Him through the storm that had overtaken.

But at some point I started thinking about the chronic events of life and wondering how I would handle those. Years ago, we had a friend who suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He had a wife and one child at the time. Consider how little is currently known about this disease and then think how frustrating it would have been 25 years ago. But his wife was a woman of strength and dedication. When I think of my early examples of how to handle chronic issues, this couple comes to mind.

As I’ve considered them, I see how the catastrophe in our history perhaps prepared us for the chronic event before us. I believe that God used many details in the death of Caleb to touch others and to grow us. I believe that we have honored God in our representation of this event and in how we responded. It was a huge, huge event; I just cannot describe or tell all that happened.

And now, we are on the cusp of a chronic event. Yes, I agree that the initial diagnosis felt more like a catastrophe. But it hasn’t gone away and now we have to manage our lives around that intruder, cancer. The little beast is on our minds day after day preying upon our peace. We have no answers or conclusions, we have no point in time where we can “settle in” for a new normal. The reality is always changing.

We respond differently to chronic than we do to catastrophic. What do we do when there is a catastrophe in the family of a friend? It is so easy to be there for them and to support them. And it is so easy for them to let us, because it will level out soon. They understand the significance of the catastrophe and often they are depending upon God and shining His light and His love through the event.

Contrast that to how we respond when our friends, once again, need support in the same “old” trial. It feels heavy, doesn’t it? It feels like things are never going to change or get better — and that second part is really what we want — that it would get better. And, it’s difficult for them to keep accepting help. They know that in some way, they are disrupting our lives; that they are taking our precious time and maybe even some resources. They may have to pray more frequently about their attitude or they may be so discouraged that praying is hard.

Chronic is defined as an illness “persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.” (Google Dictionary) I don’t know what is classified as a “long time” but as I look at lung cancer, perhaps this is a chronic event for us. People may look at our blog or Facebook page looking for updates, but with a chronic situation, updates are sparse and usually uneventful. So what would I like for you to know about us and how we are handling our chronic illness?

We have to pray more frequently about our attitude. God is a comforter and healer and we know this. We know that He can fully heal Bud at any moment. And what praise we would offer to Him at that point! But sometimes, it is not about the miraculous thing that God could perform. Sometimes it is about the continual work that He is doing. He is continually comforting. He is continually communing with us. He is continually adjusting our attitudes. He is continually meeting our needs. Perhaps that is the miraculous; that He never grows tired of our situation and that He is bigger than the evil one who wants to pull us down.

I know that there are those of you who struggle with chronic illness or chronic obstacles such as addiction, family problems, emotional issues, or any number of things. We know that God could instantly remove all of those diseases or problems. Not since Jesus walked the earth has there been widespread healing. While there is healing today, still, and I do believe that, the normal course is to deal with the chronic event day by day.

And where is the miracle in that? The miracle is that He never leaves us; nor does Hemiracle-tree forsake us. The miracle is that He has given us His Comforter to come along side us and help us in all our situations. The miracle is that He loves us and provides for us each and every day. The miracle is the love of our brothers and sisters who reach out to us and who pray for us and help us. Have you stopped seeing the miracles in the chronic? The miracle is that He can adjust our eyes to see things the way that He does. The miracle is that we can daily depend upon Him and not be disappointed. The miracle is that He draws us ever closer to Him.

I pray that as I walk through this chronic event, that I will look for the miracles. If God were not with me, there would be no comfort, no help, no provision, no prayer, and only disappointment. In embracing the Him, there is the miracle.

Whatcha doin’?

I know that many have been somewhat stupefied by the limited number of posts that I’ve put out in the past few months, especially given Bud’s circumstances. I’ve been keeping it quiet because of my own insecurities, but I suppose it’s good for you to know.

In August 2017, Bud and I started talking about the idea of me getting my funeral director’s license. I did some praying and thinking. If you know me, you know that I’ve been declining this path for quite a few years. When I was homeschooling our kids, I felt like it would be too overwhelming for me to go to school as well. (Especially given that distance classes were not an option then.) After our children all left the nest, I wanted to just help in a supportive role and develop the media offerings of our funeral home.

And honestly, I’ve had to think about the physical aspects of funeral directing. I have never been drawn to sciences, particularly those that deal with the body, so this portion of the course seemed beyond my capabilities and interests.

So when Bud asked me once again if I would consider getting my license, I was the most pimssurprised to hear coming from my mouth, “Sure, I think I should do that.” So began my journey into funeral directing.

In September, I enrolled at Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science.  The second week of October, classes began.

Most of my courses are distance classes. I have completed the first module and am more than half way through the second module. It has been very interesting so far; and, honestly, pretty rigorous. Each module is eight weeks and during that time two or three college-level courses are completed. The whole course will take approximately two years, so I suppose I’m well on my way.

I have also already learned a lot–about funeral directing as a career and about myself. I’ve found that, as I intimated, I do struggle with the sciences. I also have learned that I am a panic-stricken test taker! These timed tests seem to just set off my nerves!

I have also had classes that have caused me to probe the field of funeral service in ways that I never did before. These thought-provoking “philosophy” of funeral service classes have brought me more into focus about the whole field of serving our community during funerals. Perhaps I will go back over my previous assignments and share with you some of our philosophy.

Anyway, you do know about Bud’s journey; and now, you know about mine. Clarifying the timeline, I enrolled for funeral directing studies about a month before Bud was admitted to Strong Memorial. I know that it will be tempting for some to think that I chose this path because of what happened to Bud. However, the more accurate statement is that God started me in this direction before Bud’s diagnosis.

I know myself; I would not have been able to make a decision and start classes in the midst of the emotional turmoil that Bud’s circumstances placed upon me. So, God spared me that hurdle. Now, I am looking forward to being the first husband/wife licensed funeral directing team in our area. Considering how well we work together, I anticipate that my having my license in funeral directing will just make our service all the better.

Business as usual

So, progress reports come slowly. That’s the nature of the medical community.  In a few weeks, Bud will have another set of scans to update the report.

In the meantime, it is basically “business as usual.” Bud returned to Wellsville Central School as a bus driver. He has only ever been a morning driver. This has been a great schedule for him because he is a morning person by nature and that time of day is rarely interrupted by other events. We believe it has been a help to the school as well. Have you heard how difficult it is to get drivers? If you have the right license, maybe you’d like to help out a school.

Anyway, he passed the required physical and he also successfully completed the safety test, so he is back on the bus!

Bud has returned to construction work as well. We have an upstairs office that he is working on. Most recently, he has spent time at our church helping to tape the drywall. This is a job that he does not like to do, but he is good at it. So, he has volunteered there a bit.

And, of course, you see him around town visiting with various people. If you see him, 02-16-18 business as usualstop and say “Hi!” He’s always glad to take a few minutes and shoot the breeze. Last night, we celebrated my mother’s birthday at Beef Haus. And we saw several of you there! What a great time to connect!

So, everything is running as it should.

We know that you have choices in Wellsville for funeral services. We are always honored to serve your family. We are quite capable of assisting you through this very difficult time. We have recently added an amazing space that offers a level of service and comfort never before seen in the Wellsville area. Many people look at this space and believe that we are no longer affordable. This is simply not so. We have not raised our prices since opening the doors on the Riverside Drive facility. And our prices match or are lower than other funeral homes nearby.

It is because of God’s provision, your continued confidence, and a little bit of help from Steuben Trust Bank that this addition happened. We prayed that we would be able to “pay-as-we-go” and that was almost possible. So, that is why we don’t have to pass building costs on to families who choose us.

We began this section of the blog, the cancer journey, so that we could be transparent with our community; so that you would know what is happening. The best places to get information are from this site, our Facebook page, or just give Bud a call.

The propagated rumors that say any differently than what you’ve read here or had us tell you are just not true. We welcome your questions and concerns. We also invite you to set a rumor straight if you hear something contrary.

It’s just business as usual.

A Time to Wait

That’s what this week has been; a time to wait.

Bud has had two cycles (of four weeks each) of the targeted drug therapy. At the end of two cycles, he gets a CT scan and MRI to evaluate the progress of the treatment. Tuesday, we went to Rochester for the testing.

Today we got results. To use the doctor’s words, the response of Bud’s body to the treatment is “phenomenal”! The small lesion in his brain is no longer evident. The larger one has reduced by 50%. The mass on his lung has reduced by 50%. The scan on his vertebrae shows that the bone is regenerating; the same is true of his hip. We are so thankful!

We are thankful for those of you who pray for him. We are thankful that we had opportunity for this clinical trial. We are thankful for so many things.

Even while we are receiving good news and are expressing our thankfulness, I am mindful of so many of our friends and family who are facing this giant and don’t have as much positive to report. We are praying for you every day. Battle fatigue for medical issues is a true obstacle and prayer from friends and family is so important.

Some have recently lost loved ones to cancer and are working hard to find a new equilibrium. The questions and the longings may be overtaking you. I think of my cousins and uncle who are living with the daily void that my aunt left when she went to heaven on December 15. I cannot begin to understand how they hurt. I will not offer platitudes and clichés. If I were able to just hug each of them, that I would do.

As my dear uncle stood beside my aunt’s casket, he said “Don’t cry for her.” Then he said, “Cry for us, that’s ok; but don’t cry for her.” What a tender heart to be so vulnerable and transparent.

So many hurting people; people looking for hope and help . . . As we forge ahead with continued treatments, we will continue to pray for you. And we humbly thank you for remembering Bud.pray-continually-gods-will

Family, Friends, Faith

This has been a week of formally being thankful. I’ve seen so many thankful and grateful postings. I’ve heard people speak about gratitude and I’ve seen so many sharing their thankful lists. I don’t want the weekend to end without my own voice joining in with the others about the many things for which to be thankful!

1546363_10152035273148813_1391714057_nFamily. I am so thankful for all my family. Along with wonderful children and their spouses who we claim as ours as well, we have our parents and siblings and aunts, uncles, and cousins, etc. All of these people are part of our story and we are thankful for them.

 

Friends. I have been overwhelmed with the recent reminder of the many friends in our lives. You have come to our aid by taking Bud and his medical needs to God, by taking care of our dogs, by sending simple texts that say “Good morning friend. Just wanted to say I was thinking of you . . .,” by driving our trash to the transfer station, by offering a lunch out, by sending cards—so many cards of encouragement, by your special little gifts.

Faith. Some people do not claim a faith. In fact, some people consider it a crutch. If that is the case, then I’ll just admit it–I’m lame. Without faith to depend upon, life would be so bleak. The New Century Bible says it like this “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I hope for a day without pain, sorrow, tears. Faith allows me to be sure that this day will come.

I hope for a time when I will be with Jesus. Faith means that at some point I will experience this blessed event.

I hope for a life free of fear, anxiety, and condemnation; a life of beauty, love, and peace. My faith assures me that this desire will be fulfilled.

All these things that I hope for are clearly offered in God’s Word. I know that these events and qualities will one day be mine. I’ve never seen anyone attain these things but I don’t have to see it to believe it.

I hope for comfort from God Himself, who loves me and promises to never leave me or forsake me. My faith tells my hurting soul that the help I have each day, the balm that heals my heart, the hand that lifts me up are all from Him.

But this is about gratitude.

So I am thankful for that day without pain, sorrow, tears. I am grateful that one day I will be with Jesus. I am thankful that He takes the fear, anxiety, and condemnation and trades it for beauty, love and peace. I am thankful for the help that I have each day as my friends pray for me, for the balm that heals my heart when I read words of encouragement that you have taken time to write, and for the hands that lift me up by praying for me. For this is the evidence that God Himself, who has promised to never leave me or forsake me, is comforting me.

Family, friends, and a crutch. I am deeply thankful.

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Fight Like a Girl

FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!

This is the caption on my cousin, Sherri’s facebook image today. Sherri is a vibrant sherriChristian with one daughter, Kylee, who attends Cedarville University. Sherri teaches at Ironton High School in Ohio. Her mother is my Aunt Judy, who I wrote about yesterday.

Sherri’s Facebook posting this morning:

“I know I have lots of people praying for me – especially today since my last post indicated I’d be having another gamma knife procedure today, but things have changed yet again. My doctors found more lesions in the dura lining of my brain, and because of this, whole brain radiation is necessary. I went through the simulation and had a mask made on Monday and began treatment yesterday. I’ll have ten treatments total with Thanksgiving day & weekends off, so I’ll be in Columbus a lot. I’ve truly struggled this past week wallowing in negativity and self-pity. This morning, although I’ve slept very little, I feel energized and ready for this next battle in the war. I just ask that you pray my doctors are given wisdom, that I’m given strength, joy and peace, that Kylee is given assurance, and that my family is given resilience. I know I serve a mighty God who gives me hope and a future (Jer. 29:11), and He has a plan in all of this. I will trust Him and take joy in my future! This is an uphill battle, I know, but I’m ready. BRING IT ON!!!!!”

As you can surmise, she has been at this for a very long time. We have been praying for her and have seen God do wonderful things. It appears that this is another season of escalation for Sherri.

As Sherri continues on with her battle, my prayer for her is rest. For even in conflict the warrior must experience two types of rest – stillness of body and of mind. Her body has experienced a bit of rest these past few months, now it is being called into action for the next battle. And as she enters the battle, she is being called to the other rest, peace. When the battle rages the hardest is when peace can reign most supreme for the child of God.

Jesus offers Himself as the source of our peace:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

He promises rest for those who come to Him. In our weariness, He wants us to observe and learn. This Master Teacher, who is so humble and so gentle, will show us that rest is possible. It is possible because of Him.

He has all authority to settle our hearts in peace. He can offer this peace because He is the very Prince of Peace:

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

I also pray that Sherri will know His presence. That she will be assured that He will never leave her; He will always be with her and He will show her the way.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

Though these are my prayers for her, they are, rather, continued prayers. Because, you see she has been fighting like a girl. She has been shining the love of God through the entire process. She has been aware of His working in and through her. She has been faithful to Him.

She does fight like a girl.

She fights like a girl on her knees.

When the plan is not coming together.

When the plan is not coming together.  That is a hard concept to explore. We all make plans and we have our preferences of how we want things to go, and we base our plans on our preferences. We also base our expectations on our preferred plan.

This posting is not about Bud, but about my aunt.

I have a wonderful aunt, Judy. I have admired her and her family for my whole life. Whenever we would visit she was so welcoming. She always talked to me in a “grown-up” way. I truly loved observing her with her husband, Elwin. They have always seemed like a great match. I have lately learned that she has some “snark” as well. I would have never guessed it, but I suppose we all need some of that to get through life on this earth.Judy

My dear Aunt Judy has pancreatic cancer. I know that people the country over are praying for her. I would ask you to remember her as well. My heart is so sad that I haven’t known her better. But what I do know is this: she loves her family. She and Elwin have three grown children and several grandchildren. And they have taught that family how to love one another.

Isn’t that the main thing? We can get so caught up in chasing after stuff that we lose sight of the main thing. They stayed in one area and rarely moved. I can remember visiting them in one house all through my growing up years. After Elwin retired (?) they built a lovely house way out in the country and that is where they now live. I admire that they understood the value of belonging to a place, and they gave that sense of belonging to their children.

As I keep track of Judy’s struggles, I think of things that I would like to know, to do. Mostly, I just want to say, “I love you. Thank you for being such a great role model for me. I watched you even through our sporadic visits and I saw a woman who worked hard to grow her family in the important things. I see a woman who loves her husband and her family. I appreciate that you have spent your life serving and helping each one of them.”

I remember one summer thinking how selfless she was. She had just redecorated her bedroom and she actually considered my uncle’s taste when she chose the color. The room was very masculine. At that point in my growing up years, I just did not get it that she would lay aside her preference for his and actually choose a brown bedroom!

My Aunt Judy had plans to grow old with her husband; to watch her grandchildren grow up and marry; to not be beaten down by pancreatic cancer. But her plan is not coming together. Even when our plan does not come together, God is there, and all the more.

What I have learned recently is this … God wants us to be in Heaven with Him a whole lot more than we want to be there. We forget that we are spiritual beings on a journey home. God has waited these sixty plus years for Judy to live her life on earth and He has waited patiently. He knows that she will be with Him someday. And He knows that the “someday” is coming much sooner than she would have planned. The time He has had to wait for her companionship has been a gift to her and a sacrifice for Him. Even though “time” has a different meaning for Him, there has been a space of it where Judy has not been with Him.

And still He waits. I am so thankful for the time that her family still has with her, to love her and to show her that love. I know that God is hurting for her sweet family and for the loss that they will one day face—He is the God of compassion. He is moved by our pain.

I will continue to pray for my aunt. I know that her journey is so hard right now. I will pray for my uncle. His great love for Judy is so evident. His sorrow and pain in walking this path beside her, instead of for her, is heart breaking to observe. I will pray for my cousins and their children. That God loves each one of them is no mystery.

As Judy moves along her journey, I pray that she continues to point them all to love: her love for them as his wife, their mom, their grandmother; her love for the Lord who she invited into her life years ago; God’s love for her as He waits to enfold her in His tender embrace; ultimately God’s love for each one of her family.

When plans don’t come together, God is there, and all the more.