Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We continue..........

Our son Eric & Terence- salmon run 2011!
 Terence is on his second 6 week round of Nilutamide which is still causing him some side effects & he's not so sure he want to continue. It causes flu like sysmptoms (fever, aches, etc)-  It's been perhaps the toughest cycle thus far for him, only because he knows this is the lower dosage which is supposed to be helping with the side effects and it's not, really. He's had quite a few rough days, or weeks!

   On Friday Terence takes a new PSA test (first one in 6 weeks. We stopped taking them because it's almost irrelevant now & it causes so much worry when the number rises.) The doctors' and Terence determination and decision on where to go next is a question of quality vs. quantity at this juncture.

As you may or may not know, Terence's prognoses with advanced/metastatic PCa is not curable and with conventional cancer methods.  There are currently only a few FDA approved 1st and 2nd line (hormone) therapy drugs which may help to slow progression of the cancer if one responds well. Terence is on the last of the 2nd line treatment- on average, Terence's body has responded favorably to treatments for about 3-4 months.  But these past 18 weeks treatments have been effective for only 3-5 weeks- before we start looking at what's next and we're not even sure if this last round is working.

Terence's next oncology appointment is September 7th- at that meeting with Dr. M we'll see how well the cancer is responding to the lowered dosage in T's body.  If the cancer symptoms and side effects are at a status quo, and if Terence can continue to manage the side effects he'll probably stay on this treatment until there is a marked difference in the cancer related symptoms.

Terence and our son-in-law Mike and Hanai kids, Travis & Stacy!

Next line of treatment (next week, next month, not sure when) will be chemo- (a 6 to 9 month round I think)- or- for  how ever long it works, balancing benefit with quality of life.

After that will be Zytiga-(we hope) which is a newly approved post chemo treatment, however that comes at a great expense; 5K a month (our co-pay will be about 1/2 I think).  Yikes.

Anyway, that's the generic course ahead of us at the moment- things can always change~ for better, we are hoping!

Matt, T's longtime friend from WYO

 So meanwhile, we're learning to be thankful for every day.  Spending time with my family, friends... some people never have that opportunity.  T took our eldest son Eric, fishing and I knew they were making memories that will last.  Terence is trying to spend quality time with me, our sons, daughters, grandchildren and close friends while he feels strong enough to get around.  It's a shame we don't think more about the time we do have every day before we are diagnosed with a life threatening illness or a catastrophe takes place in our lives.

T is avid that life is precious, and not to be wasted.  "We can't take anything of worldly value with us, but we can make an eternal difference in those people around us that will go on for eternity.  The list is pretty short when it comes to what truly matters in this life"~  Terence's quote.

So, we continue pastoring & ministering via "The Pipeline"-every Sunday either here in GH or in Seattle.  That's been a huge blessing of fellowship and encouragement for us!

AND.... it's the great 2011 salmon run in Washington (the salmon run through here every other year)! Terence's favorite sport is fishing- so he's been out on the Puyallup river (fever-or-no) fishing, teaching and hanging out with our kids and his closest friends. 

Until next month- blessings to you and your families.  Terence & I pray for each one of you.

I'll be in touch regarding what's next for the T- man.

We continue to pray for a miracle (because God is able).
We continue to praise Him (because God is good).

And we continue to live and breathe (because we have our being in Him).


Monday, August 22, 2011

Out and about

August 22, 2011-                       
These past three weeks have been enjoyable.  I am glad Terence has had a couple of "good" weeks.  He has been on 1/2 dosage of Nilutamide for about 3 weeks now and feels better.  We aren't too sure how 1/2 dose is affecting the cancer,  but we are rejoicing in the small reprieve.                                                        
We spent three days with our grand kids at my grandfather's cabin. Terence's break in partial treatment has given him more energy and less fatigue.  I think he just felt better over all which enabled him to enjoy our time with them.                                                                                     He has been out fishing too.  In Washington, the great salmon run comes every other year (this year!)-  and Terence finds much enjoyment out on the river.  He is an avid angler, always has been as evidenced by the 16 pound rainbow trout mounted in his man cave along with a 'few' others.  He loves to fish.  It has always brought him great peace.                                                                                           Though he has been out and about & feeling somewhat better on the 1/2 dosage of medicine (less fatigue & less nausea)- there are changes happening inside his body.     

He is having to self-cath more often with negative effects and pain.  He has a bladder infection is not clearing up even after a week and a half on antibiotics.  This is causing him great discomfort.                                           He is experiencing shooting pains in his lower back and hips. Joining this now is pain in his femur.  The shooting pains are keeping him awake at night.  Morphine1 x a day isn't enough, but he refuses to take  more.......the massage table got set back up in the family room tonight........daily massages will help!

He told me tonight that he is having a lot of pain but will wait until our Sept 7th oncology appointment- I think he will have a discussion wit Dr. M regarding  a TURP surgery (partial removal of the prostate)- we think that's what's causing these problems- the cancer is invading the general area.
Well that's about it for now.  He's really enjoying having more energy, we had a great day of ministry today....a BBQ, horse shoes and family time tonight......pray with us that everything else that's going on will settle and that he'll feel better too.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why does God test us?

What is man . . . that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment?” (Job 7:17-18).

Isn’t that an amazing revelation—that God visits us every morning and tests us every moment? When it first became real to me, I had to ask myself: Am I prepared to receive a visit from God every
morning? Do I wake up with that expectation?

Then I went on to ask myself: Why does God test us? What is His purpose?

The Dictionary gives an interesting definition of the verb test: to ascertain worth  . . . by subjection to certain examinations. God does not test us because He is angry with us or wants to put us down. On the contrary, testing is a mark of God’s favor. He tests us because He is to establishing our value.

A jeweler will subject gold or silver to certain tests. He does this because they are valuable. He does not bother to test base metals such as iron or tin.

In the world of the patriarchs there was one man of outstanding righteousness. His name was Job. God was proud of Job. He actually boasted about him to Satan: “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”

Characteristically, Satan’s response was to attribute selfish motives to Job: “He only serves You because of what He gets from You.”  In response, God permitted Satan to put Job to the test. First, He allowed Satan to destroy everything that belonged to Job: his possessions, his servants and his children. Then God even permitted Satan to touch Job’s body—to afflict him with boils from head to toe. But He did not permit Satan to take Job’s life.

Job recognized that God was testing him.When He has tested me,” he said, “I shall come forth as gold”—that is, gold that had been tested by fire. This gave him the strength to endure. He cried out in agony of soul, but he never gave up.

"Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward. " (James 1:12).

Recognize our tests.  We have need of endurance.  
Stand firm.  Be found tried and true.  
And be blessed.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

An insane amount of insomnia!

A caregivers problem? Totally insane at times.

An insane amount of insomnia!  Afraid to sleep.  Ok, Im not exactly afraid to sleep but I am afraid to wake up. The reason for this is that when I first wake up I feel like like I am living in slow motion for much of the day.  The things I face today are the same things I faced yesterday........

I kind of fear the next day and what it will bring: the same thing. The insanity of living in slow motion. 

Maybe I should say I am afraid to start the day again over and over and over. The cancer's not going away and we're still dealing with all aspects of an insane disease.

Cancer can do that to a family. Bring total insanity! Everything is magnified, slowed down, and blown out of perspective because all we tend to think about is the cancer. Living fully in the present every day takes some practice. It can get boring if you're not used to it.

Its a rather restless feeling of insanity, like having no idea what to do with myself.  Somewhere in this stupid diagnoses, I lost my sense of self. 

Living above cancer..... when you are above a circumstance, the view (perspective) is much clearer.  

From that view, I can now see that living in slo-mo is good, even a blessing

Do you know what I had the time to do today?  Make pinata's  and giant lolipops with my grown daughter (her daughter turns 3 this week and we're getting ready for her party!).  My other two grand kids ran errands with my husband, blasting the radio and singing "Sherry baby" all the way through town, big smiles and cracking up all the way. Dinner followed and kisses goodnight, until we can do it all again tomorrow.

A few years ago, that wouldn't have been the picture.  As a busy General manager of a Seattle based- retail franchise,  I oversaw 3 corporations, 8 companies as well as being a franchise Broker.  I was rarely home and always stressed. The same with my husband- Pastoring & home building.  We were both on track (to what?) and very busy. Very often, we'd pass each other on the interstate going in opposite directions at odd times.  We'd go days without being able to  eat a meal together.  We were both so sad about that, but not sure how to change it.   

But cancer stopped everything. Literally.
 Insane, but true.

During those busy and stressful  times I prayed desperately that T and I would have our time back together and have our grand kids near us to run errands with their 'Papi' and do crafts and spend the night with us.  well~ here we are. Prayer answered. Cancer still sucks, but even in the worst of worst situations,  God can bring sanity where insanity presides.

Still not sure about tomorrow, but I know I don't have to fear it.  I'll take it, over and over and over gain.

(So this little lecture of mine (to myself) should help me with tonight's case of insomnia). It is currently 2:55 AM. so I should sleep well, because tomorrow I am spending the day with our grand kids, and going to plan a week at the cabin with them and my husband and plan a birthday party with both my daughters. 

while I will not give cancer the credit for slowing our lives down, I will certainly appreciate the consequences of it, and I will say "thank-you Lord for slowing us down,  simplifying our lives and bringing us together and bringing us some sense of sanity"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No faking cheerfulness here. If we're sad we admit it and trust the Lord to carry us through.

 Sometimes I wonder how much of this cancer journey 
 I should write about. It's not very private and it is quite  humbling.

Quite often you hear my sorrows.  You feel Terence's pain.
You see our family struggle to remain close, to keep smiling in-spite of the fear.  You see us gain weight. You see where we live, 
how we live. You see us on vacation, laughing.
You see us crying. You see us in pain. You see us crazy.
You see us calm.

Personally I think it's valuable for a few reasons.

My sanity, for starters.

And second, hope for others. 
Life and it's woes are real and writing about all this can
restore hope in God, families and friendships again.

How often do any of us write about our current struggles or our ongoing struggles with issues such as depression, anxiety, sickness, financial woes, anger, and the like?

How often do we preach about our current and ongoing struggles?  Most preachers write and preach about the battle after they have won it. Most talk about the valley once we are back on the mountaintop.

  “Oh, I just talked about how last year I battled ...” That’s part of our problem. We write and and share our testimonies about the battle after we have won itWe talk with confidence about the hardship only after we have come through it and conquered it. 

What effect might it have on our fellow strugglers if we talked about the battle during the battle—while we are still in the valley?  That may require some humility on our part, but how might it connect truth to life if we were honest enough to admit that we are facing ongoing battles?  Do we fear that some will see this as being weak and lacking faith in God?

 I think sharing our story as our pain and struggles unfold is an opportunity for others to grow with us in faith as we learn walk through pain and uncertainty with the Lord.

  No faking cheerfulness here.  If we're sad we admit it and trust the Lord to carry us through.

"My God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you...." Psalm 42:6

This is the utterance of a soul in anguish and the conviction that hope ought to be cherished.  The psalmist is sad. His troubles come rushing over his soul; his heart is oppressed, and he is constrained to confess that, notwithstanding his solemn purpose not to be sad, and the conviction that he ought to be cheerful, and his wish to be and to appear so, yet his sorrows get the mastery over all this, and his heart is filled with grief.  That's honest.

I feel like this all the time!!!  What sufferer has not felt this? When I really wished to trust in God; when I hoped that things would be better; when I saw that  I ought to be calm and cheerful but my sorrows are  like a flood, filling my soul with anguish........

In the end  though, because I know my God,  this anguish compels me to form resolutions anew, and  it drives me afresh to the throne of grace, to beat back the returning tide of grief, and to bring the soul to calmness and peace. Ahhhhh. That's what the psalmist is saying.

"Therefore will I remember you" - (I will look to you; I will come to you) in the midst of these  troubles, and sorrows, and having no source of consolation, I will remember my God.  Even here, amidst these sorrows, I will lift up my heart in grateful remembrance of him, and will think of him alone. 

Is this psalmist (King David) weak and fearful, lacking faith?  In my opinion he honest verbalizing his pain and even his conviction that he should be cheerful through it! And in my opinion  he showed us his wisdom -because after he verbalized it, he looked to his source and found comfort in his God.

Our "Ugly sweater Christmas".  Our family copes with cancer- may not always be a perfect portrait!


Saturday, August 6, 2011

May the Lord continue to direct our steps as we navigate through something we never anticipated.

"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."- Joseph Campbell. 
Wedding day, May 1989
Well, I certainly understand this statement but honestly, I am having difficulty letting go of our dreams and plans....
 As a young couple T and I did not plan to be fighting stage 4 cancer, overcoming sickness and learning to live above a death sentence.  We had dreams of growing old together, plans that included enjoying our grand kids, and the fruit of our labor.
"A person may plan his own journey, but the LORD directs his steps"  Proverbs 16:9
 So then..... I guess I can't be so hung up on the honorifics of an ugly disease, that I miss the blessings in the midst of cancer (because there are many).  May the Lord continue to direct our steps as we navigate through something we never anticipated.  
And the same with you: if you find yourself living a life you never anticipated, the Lord will direct your steps too.
So we can settle in with this good word from our good God:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope"  Jeremiah 28:11 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

These last 24 months cancer has taken every opportunity to try and divide and conquer our family.

Terence started feeling better this week, so we ventured out to the beach
 Living above cancer takes faith, family and friends.

This whole blog is devoted to our journey with a terminal illness and learning how to live above it, not just with it.  But something happened along the way.  Terence got sicker.  I got madder.
An entire month went by-  Terence,  weary of being sick & worried about me. Me: angry, sad, mad, depressed, did I say angry?  One day we looked at each other and said "We're not living above cancer, we're barely surviving this".  We felt like cancer had our entire family by the tail and was tossing us around like a rag doll.  With our grown children in tow, we gathered together in desperate prayer.

My younger sister Charla, who lives about 2 hours north figured out I was having a rough time and called my oldest daughter Nadine..."Ummmm,.....your mom's not answering her phone..........."   Nadine:"Ummm...that's because she's not leaving her room".

L-R: Younger sister Charla, Older sister Brook and myself
 I was in a dark pit of fear and self pity.  But I just couldn't pull myself out.   I was overwhelmed with my own grief and instead of providing a joyful atmosphere, I generated an atmosphere of gloom and depression.  It effected the entire family.  My sisters helped me...mainly by bringing this to my attention "Get help, Sherry. Get healthy Sherry. Get out of your room Sherry"!

 Cancer really is scary, uncertain and at times extremely sad I am very thankful that we have our friends and family to help us as we navigate the slippery slopes of a terminal illness. 
Thanks to everyone for all of the practical help and prayer; to my sisters who are helping me through the dark clouds of depression; my kids who surround Terence & I daily with their love; music, laughter, hugs, tears and meals; to our friends for kindness and support.

Terminal illness in a family is one of the most devastating things that a family can experience.  It has the potential to break down the bond that holds a family together –the  stress, anxiety can cause issues of conflict among otherwise healthy, loving individuals.

These last 24 months cancer has taken every opportunity to try and divide and conquer our family.  Our values are being tried and tested:  "Love, Honor, Respect, Support each other".  Cancer is hurting all of us, not just Terence.  But we deeply believe in one another and we are literally learning how to walk it out (not just talk it out), every single day!  On Sad days. On mad Days. On good days. Every day.

Living above cancer takes faith, family and friends, that's for sure.

Dinner outside-
(l to r)- Terence, Andrew, Travis, Stacy, Kiley, Eric & Callie

 My sister Charla (left), I and niece Roxanne (right). They are really funny story tellers so they keep me laughing.

Our oldest son Eric, is enlisted in the Navy, but was stationed near us for 2 years because of T's sickness. 

 My family (l to r) Randy, Wayne, (me), Brook, Dad, Charla and Yvette have been a huge inspiration to me: "be happy and stay strong for Terence; we're here for you."

Terence's only sibling, best friend and younger brother Dan lends his ear to Terence often!

My husband  is my hero because he remains faithful to the Lord even after waking up on the 730th day of feeling like he has the flu, and is tenderhearted toward our children because they are learning how to live above cancer too.