Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It is a blessing to have so much GladWare. Even if it's piled up too high, spilling out of the cabinet, and so abundant that you finally just give up and put the whole stack out in the garage to be dealt with later.

It is a testament to all the people who love you and served you by bringing meals to you when you needed it most. It is the remaining symbol of everything that was prepared, warmed, seasoned, blessed, and brought to your home. Thank you to everyone for your care for our family, whether it was tangible or intangible. We felt loved the whole way along. I won't talk about the extra five pounds sitting on my hips from the wonderful desserts that came with those meals. I'll just say thank you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

All Clear

Big sigh of relief. Jumping up and down. Hugs and kisses all around. Prayers of thanks. All clear.

Dr. Minow called about 15 minutes ago. Reese's PET scan showed a "complete resolution" of the two lymph node tumors. Poof, they're back to normal size, thanks to the chemotherapy. He did see some mild lung fibrosis on the scan, which is the scarring we were worried about from the Bleomycin. However, he said it should resolve and just needed to be watched with no treatment necessary.

The next step will be a blood test on June 22nd (Happy Birthday to me -- what a great gift!) to make sure Reese's tumor markers are still normal, and then an appointment to go over everything a week after that. From there on out, he'll be back on surveillance. God has been so good to us. Of course we would have walked through whatever challenge he laid out for us, but we're just so happy we don't have to do another round of chemotherapy. Reese might even have enough energy to break out the cake and party horns now.

Friday, June 5, 2009

No news

No matter how sternly I glare at the cell phone, cursing at it in my mind, it refuses to ring. "Ring, would you?" I think. Still, no phone call from Reese's oncologist. We know that the PET scan was read by the radiologist, received by the office, and faxed to Dr. Minow at his hotel today. Poor guy, he deals with cancer patients all day, so I know his vacation is well earned. He could be hiking in the Alps or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, I don't even know. I just want to find out if my husband still has cancer or not. I'm no good at waiting.

The bright side is that Reese is definitely perking up, physically and mentally. Chips, salsa, and the first beer you've had in 10 weeks while watching the Lakers with your brother will do that for you. He's only had a little bit of pain the past two days and has slept well, which makes a big impact on his mood. He's getting his sarcasm back, which is always a good sign.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Is that a light at the end of the tunnel, or just an oncoming train?

I know. I'm neglecting the blog. I know I need to write an update, but I really don't want to. It's been so nice to be free of appointments and waiting rooms, letting things like sewing projects, laundry, and vacation bible school decorations take up my thoughts instead.

Reese has been gaining ground little by little -- very little, actually. He's sleeping a lot. He worked for a bit on his laptop today, but quickly ran out of steam and needed a 2 hour nap. He still has quite a bit of muscle and joint pain that just doesn't seem to be going away. Dr. Minow referred to it as "residual chemotherapy pain". I don't know if that's really a thing, or just something they say to make you feel like what you're going through is normal. He didn't seem to be worried about it.

Tomorrow morning, Reese will have his PET scan to see if the tumors in his lymph nodes are gone. His doctor is leaving on vacation, so we may not find out the results until this weekend. He told us that he feels there's a 90% chance that the scan will be clear and Reese will be done with chemotherapy. We're trying to focus on the 90%, but that 10% is hard to not think about. They blocked off an appointment for another round of chemo for him on Monday, just in case. I tried to talk him out of his anxiety by saying, "Of course they just want to write it down because he'll be out of town and that would be a big hassle if they weren't prepared, but remember he said only a 10% chance, and nobody really thinks you'll need it...yadda, yadda, yadda." The truth is, Reese just can't even stand the thought of his name being pencilled into that book. It's hard to be done, but not really done.

Thanks so much for your prayers and good wishes. We'll report back as soon as we hear anything.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Oh happy day!

He's done. Finished. See that little calendar widget over in the right hand column? It's blank! I feel like I should post something eloquent or introspective on a day like this, but frankly I'm too exhausted and shocked to think straight. You'll have to wait for something more poignant later! I just wanted to get this information up as soon as possible because so many of you are waiting for the update.

Reese's pulmonary function test did show a mild to moderate decline on several factors, so Dr. Minow insisted on discontinuing the Bleomycin. Cancer is nothing to mess around with, but so is pulmonary toxicity, and he felt the risks to Reese's long term lung function were too great. As you know, this is not really the news I was hoping to year. I wanted to be able to continue the Bleomycin and for Reese to get every bit of treatment that we'd originally planned. Reese, however, was understandably thrilled! He's been in horrible pain all weekend, so the news of no more yuck being pumped into his body from this point on was just what he was looking for. Nobody wants him to be subjected to any more chemotherapy than he needs, but I want to make sure we've done the prudent thing in combating the cancer cells. Dr. Minow assured us that when he's managed "good risk" patients like Reese who show signs of possible lung toxicity, the experts at Indiana University have advised that skipping the Bleomycin for the last round is acceptable. He also felt that adding another whole round of Cisplatin and Etoposide to substitute for the Bleomycin was far too aggressive. I made him say it several times and in several different ways to me -- he was very patient, checking and rechecking to make sure I was confident in the plan. I didn't let him off the hook easily, and I think he was a little glad to see me walk out of the office today!

The plan, moving forward, is to get in for another PET scan later this week, and then meet with the doctor the following Tuesday to go over the results. We're expecting to see that the cancer is completely gone from the lymph nodes, which would mean that Reese would be back on a less extensive surveillance protocol. If the PET scan shows anything is still going on, we have more options and will come up with the next step.

So, he's done. Well, sort of done. The chemotherapy medications definitely saved their best for last. This past weekend was the worst Reese has had, by far. He is really wiped out, and struggled even to make it across the parking lot from the office to our car today. We're going to hold off on the cake and party horns at this point, and I don't think he's quite up to beginning his training for the Tour de France just yet. I expect he will be firmly planted on the couch for the better part of the next 2 weeks, but we should begin to see steady improvement in his energy level after that.

Anybody want 4.97 pounds of protein powder? He hated that stuff anyway.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


These conversations always happen in the car. When they're not restrained by seatbelts, my children are too busy running, jumping, crashing, pushing, twirling, and generally getting into things. When they're in the car, they talk to Mom.

The other day we had to drop Reese off early for his infusion. The nurses graciously offered to get his IV started before their 8:00 AM staff meeting, so he would be done in time for his 1:00 PM pulmonary function test. Cade and Collin, who are usually at school during this routine, were in the car. Cade was the first to pipe up after Dad walked off into the building.

Cade: Why does Dad have to go there every day? (Said in a bit of a huff because he'd rather be home eating Captain Crunch than riding around in the car at 7:45 AM.)

Mom: Well the chemotherapy medicine works better if they give him a little bit every day, instead of all at once.

Cade: Why can't he take his pills at home?

Mom: They're not pills, they're liquid medicine, remember? Every day they have to poke Daddy with a needle, and that needle is connected to a long tube, and that tube is connected to a bag of liquid that they hang up on a metal pole. All day long, it goes drip, drip, drip, down the tube and into Daddy's vein. That's how he gets his medicine.

Cade: Wow, he has to get poked every day? I wonder why they can't just put him to sleep for the whole time.

After a long-winded and logical explanation of why they can't do that, I realize, "Oh duh, Mom, that's not the point." The point is, I think, that everyone here wishes there was something they could do to make Dad not hurt so badly. Around this time in the treatment cycle, I think Reese wishes he could just sleep for a long, long time too. This weekend, everything hurts and sleep doesn't come easily.

Cade is always telling us about the things he'll invent when he grows up: computers that write out your homework for you, an elevated walkway from our house to the Timblins so you wouldn't have to look before crossing the street, and special suits so you could go down inside a volcano to see the lava firsthand. Maybe some day he will invent a way for people to sleep through their whole chemotherapy treatment. They would wake up in two months or two years and hardly remember what their bodies had been through. That would be a good thing.

(Yes, he's laying ON the dog bed here. He's finally found someone, in Sadie, that he can't outcuddle.)

Friday, May 22, 2009


We are still waiting...waiting...waiting to find out Reese's pulmonary test results. I don't really have any answers on this front, but I wanted to post because I know so many of you are checking the blog and calling for updates.

On Wednesday, Reese had his pulmonary function test to assess whether the Bleomycin is damaging his lungs. We don't know the results of that yet. When we find out the results, we aren't sure if this will keep him from receiving the Bleomycin for the rest of his treatment. If that were to happen, we don't know exactly what impact the omission would have on his prognosis. We are just waiting.

Thank goodness I have 10 minutes in the car with a quiet 3 year-old and loud praise music to get my mind straight every morning after dropping Reese off. Letting him out of the car and watching him walk into the medical building alone is one of the most frustrating things I have to do during infusion week. Not knowing how the treatment will go, what unexpected complications may pop up, and what new test results will come in is scary for me. This morning, as I drove and listened to Ben Walther's version of Mighty to Save, I was reminded of something I'd read on a great blog a few weeks ago. When the blogger's tiny son was in the hospital with severe cardiac complications, a friend encouraged her that no matter what happens, this is not God's Plan B. There is no Plan B with Him. It's all still Plan A.

Even though I fret and get thrown by the twists and turns, He is neither surprised nor shaken by complications. Not only has He seen the road map, He wrote it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When I get there

We are working with Ellery on giving up her pacifier. I know, I know, it's long overdue. Maybe because she's the baby of the family, or maybe because she's so darn stubborn, I have put this off for far too long. I gave her the big speech the other day on the way to Costco. I don't know what I was thinking. I do not generally recommend this. It went like this:

E: Mama, I want my pat and fluffy. (her paci and lovey blanket)

C: Oh Ellery, you don't need that paci any more. We'll have a nice churro at Costco and you can leave your paci in the car.

E: Mama, I want my pat and fluffy! (more frantic)

C: Ellery, when you fell on your tooth it made it all wiggly and so the paci is not good for your tooth. You can just have your fluffy and leave your paci in the car.

E: No, Mama. I want my pat and fluffy! (wigging out now)

C: (with visions of a Costco meltdown in my mind) Ellery, you are a big girl now, you will be just fine.

E: No, Mama. I am not a big girl, I am just a baby!

Well, to my surprise, the conversation about the paci has been the worst part of it. Can you believe it? She has not used her paci during the day since we had our talk. We still let her use it in bed, but the minute she gets up, she tosses it in the crib and that is that.

It made me think about myself and how I approach things that I don't want to do. Things like cancer. The thinking about it and anticipating it is so much worse than the doing it.

Before Reese got his diagnosis -- when cancer was something that only happened to other people, rather than something that was happening to us -- I couldn't even fathom what was ahead. I remember hearing the garage door open about an hour after his appointment with the urologist. My heart sank. If everything had gone well, he would have called me on his cell phone en route to the office, right? He would say, "Oh, I just need some antibiotics" or "It's just a cyst that will go away." But if there was bad news, he would come back home to break it to me in person, and that's what was happening. He sat on the bed and said that it was a tumor (there must be a mistake!) and that it was almost certainly cancer (there must be some other explanation!).

I remember thinking, "Oh, I hope he doesn't need to have surgery", which turned into, "Oh, I hope it's not really cancerous", which turned into "Oh, I hope he doesn't have to have chemotherapy! I don't think I could handle that." The list goes on and on, and there are still fears about the future.

The one thing that is true and constant is that I have not faced any one of those fears and found Christ lacking. I may be thinking "Oh, I could never do that," and in my own strength that's pretty accurate. I can't do that, but He can. When I obey and trust, he gives me the grace to handle whatever fear I'm facing when I get there. The thinking about it and anticipating it is so much worse than the doing it, because His power is unleashed not in the worrying, but in the doing.

Ellery, Mama has not figured it all out. I want to avoid painful things and go back to what's comfortable. There are times when I want to be a baby and not a big girl. Fortunately, God loves me and He is big enough for me even when I feel small...especially when I feel small.

Isn't it amazing that a three year-old paci toting, tantrum throwing, tutu wearing baby girl can teach her Mama about obedience and grace in such a powerful way? This post has been rattling around in my head for about a week, but I finally put my thoughts together in order to chime in on Tuesdays Unwrapped over at Chatting at the Sky. For more thoughts about finding everyday inspiration, go have a look at Emily's wonderful blog. It's one of my favorites.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Another round

Today marks the start of Reese's third chemotherapy round. The last one. Yay. To be honest, I'm having a hard time mustering up as much excitement as I anticipated I'd have. Although we have had a good week, Reese definitely hasn't bounced back as well as he did the previous time. As we'd been warned (but were somehow hoping we could escape), the drugs are gradually working away at his body's reserves, as well as the cancer. The monotony of feeling "better, yet not that great" is wearing thin. It's only Monday and already he said, "I really do not want to go in today". Giving him a hug and telling him that cancer stinks, it's not fair, and he's very brave are the most I can do about that. Off he went with his iPod and lunchbag for another day in the infusion room.

Would you pray along with us about some specific things? His red blood cell count was quite low last week. If that's still problematic today, they may address it by giving him a medication called Procrit. In layman's terms, Procrit is to red blood cells as Neulasta is to white cells. It stimulates the bone marrow and, as you can guess, can cause more bone pain. If you're reading this morning, please pray that his RBC counts have rebounded and there won't be a need for the Procrit. If he does need it, we're hoping that the pain will be manageable.

Another issue that we've been praying about is our anxiety as the end of treatment nears. Soon, Reese will be having tests to confirm that the chemotherapy has worked. In all likelihood, the drugs have already done their job and the cancer is gone. The therapy he is receiving is the gold standard for good risk testicular cancer metastases. However, there is always a very slim chance that more treatment would be needed. Please pray for peace of mind and endurance as Reese finishes out this last cycle.

We're so thankful that we have a God who can give us peace beyond our circumstances. He sees the path ahead of us, even when we can't.

*Edited to add* RBC's are holding steady and they will keep a watch on them. There was no need for Procrit today. In other unexpected developments (you know how Reese likes to be exceptional), he has some signs that could be suggestive of toxicity from the Bleomycin (a slight cough and skin rash on his hands). Just to be cautious, Dr. Minow has ordered another lung function test to make sure that all is well before administering the Bleomycin part of the chemotherapy. Please pray that the test results show that everything is fine with Reese's lungs and that he can continue on with the planned schedule of chemotherapy. We'll have updates on the results some time after Wednesday. Thanks for the prayers!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A generous gift

Over the past few months, our family has received a number of "get well" gifts. We have been amazed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of so many as we've answered the doorbell to find fruit baskets, flowers, catered dinners, books and DVD's, t-shirts, and other gourmet treats. I wanted to take some space, however, to highlight one specific gift that we recently received. The other day, FedEx delivered a box from The Dignity Foundation.

The Dignity Foundation is a local organization that serves cancer patients nationwide who are struggling with hair loss and the body image issues that it can bring about. A letter we received along with the package outlines the foundation's mission, "The Dignity Foundation specializes in providing affordable, stylish, and comfortable quality headwear, wigs and hair pieces to patients experiencing hair loss," and "we will continue to service the needs of cancer patients in Orange County, and ensure their inner beauty continues to shine."

Our thoughtful loved ones sent us a Men's Sample Kit. It was beautifully packaged.

We were so excited, after reading about the products' high-quality "mono-top and fully hand-tied styles" which feature both "state of the art technology and handcrafted quality."

Wait a minute! What the...?

Are these from Spencer's? Hey, hold on! The letter is signed by "April Furst", like...April Fool's?

Our "sample kit" included the Tacky Toupee, The Dred Wig, and The Super Mullet Wig.

Collin did not want to participate in the modeling. He said, "Are these pictures going on facebook?" He was not having any of it, but did enjoy Cade and Daddy's fashion show.

In truth, there is no Dignity Foundation. This is the handiwork of our good friend, Garet Binckes -- practical joker extraordinaire. Garet, you've certainly outdone yourself this time. If Nortel doesn't work out, I'm sure you can always find a job on Punk'd, Candid Camera, or maybe some branch of the CIA where they spy on people while fronting a fictitious business.

It's true. Laughter is the best medicine.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


We're feeling pretty victorious in the Stewart household this weekend. Cade's Cal Bears surged to a 2nd place win in last night's 1st/2nd grade Friday Night Lights flag football championship. It was a fun night for our whole family, and we're so glad that Daddy was feeling up to joining in. Though we are worn out by the past few weeks, we know that cancer can never defeat us in what really matters. A family friend sent us a poem the other day that describes my thoughts entirely:

Cancer is so limited.
It cannot cripple love, it cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith, it cannot eat away peace.

It cannot destroy confidence, it cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories, it cannot silence courage.

It cannot invade the soul, it cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the spirit.
It cannot lessen the power of the Resurrection.

Can cancer conquer you?
I doubt it, for the strengths I see in you
Have nothing to do with cells, blood and muscle.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Happy Half Way Day!

Today marks the half-way point in Reese's nine weeks of chemotherapy, and it's a good day. For one thing, he's feeling much better. His appetite continues to improve, he's getting some longer stretches of sleep, the headaches and nausea have lessened, and the Lakers pulled out a win! He's still pretty much glued to the couch with the tiredness, but that's okay.

Another reason for this good day is that we can mentally cross off the first half of his treatment. Done! That's not to say that he'll feel magically better after the ninth week, but we should certainly start to see upward progress from that point on. In my mind, it's really better than half-way because he's already made it through the first week of two cycles, which are the worst parts. Only one more to go!

In celebration of the day, I wanted to take a minute to mention some thank-you's. Truly, one of the main reasons we've adapted so well up to this point is because of all of you. In the past few months, you have brought us meals, driven us to doctor's appointments, sent us groceries, folded our laundry, cared for our kids, loaned us books and DVDs, read our blog, handled things at the office, sent us cards and e-mails, washed our car, walked our dog, and many more things I don't have room to list. You have given us things to laugh about. You have prayed for us, encouraged us, and loved us. I feel like the guy on the Verizon phone commercials where he has trouble with his phone and all of a sudden, three hundred people show up in hardhats and business suits, with tool boxes, ladders, and laptops. You have been a huge source of help and support. We are overwhelmed.

Happy Half Way Day!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Out of the fog

I think it's safe to say that Reese is starting to pull out of the "week one" fog that descends over our house every cycle. I actually heard him whistling along to Max & Ruby this morning. That's a good sign. He's been happily watching basketball non-stop today (what is up with all the basketball?) aside from a few cat naps. That's a good sign too, even though it means that all three kids plus Reese have been fighting for control of the remote tonight. I'm never going to get caught up with Dancing With the Stars.

I went along with him for his Bleomycin infusion today. He was also getting checked out by Dr. Minow, and I like to get updates straight from the expert every now and then. He said, basically, that Reese looks great for where he is in the process. He was a little concerned about his weight loss, concluding that it must be water weight, since his appetite has been so much better. So, an extra IV bag of fluids and a B-12 injection were added to today's regimen, as well as some more IV Zofran just for kicks. Dr. Minow also suggested bumping the Neulasta shot to Monday next time around, hoping that will reduce the bone pain.

All that extra stuff must have improved his appetite and mood because he requested some Carl's Jr. Six Dollar Slammers on the way home. Have you tried them? They are really good, and you know I'm not that crazy about Carl's food. Reese says they're only in limited markets so far, but they're little tiny burgers on King's Hawaiian Rolls. Okay, enough of the commercial...just try them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Q & A

This past weekend, our blog cracked the 1,000 hit marker. Seriously? One thousand hits? You guys are amazing! I can't tell you how much it means to Reese and me that you read the blog, think about us, share in this with us, and pray for our family. Some of you we know. Some of you we've never even met, but we feel a closeness with all of you whether you are personal friends or just people looking for information on testicular cancer and its treatment.

Not only are you reading the blog, but you are dialoging with us via the comments function, in person, and through e-mails. I love that! It helps me know you're out there...*knock knock...hello?* If I could pass on just one small percentage of everything we've learned so far (be it medical, practical, or spiritual) that would make me so happy. In communicating with many of you, a few common questions keep popping up, so I thought I'd take some space to answer them here.

1. What kind of cancer does Reese have now? Is it lymph cancer or testicular cancer?

It's still testicular cancer, it has just metastasized to two of his lymph nodes. Testicular cancer is a germ cell cancer and so it is treated in a very specific way. While "metastasized" sounds pretty scary, remember that on Reese's surveillance plan, the doctors were watching and waiting very carefully for any small sign of cancer to show up. When it did, even though it was almost microscopic, they took quick and decisive action, so his prognosis is still very good.

2. Isn't Reese too old for testicular cancer?

Yeah, he just loves that one! Well, apparently he's not too old, but you're right in that he's on the older edge of the curve. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men, age 20 to 34, so they're definitely the highest risk group. However, 90% of testicular cancer cases occur in men 20 to 54. Also, testicular cancer is unfortunately on the rise, and the age range is expanding. Do you know what that means? If you are a man and you are reading this blog, you need to think about doing routine self exams for testicular cancer. Yup. It can occur in a 17 year old as well as a 70 year old.

Testicular cancer was the furthest thing from Reese's mind. He just got lucky in that his tumor happened to be quite painful and drove him quickly to the urologist. The signs are often more subtle. If you want to know more about how to do a self exam, check out this link or this one. Okay, nuff said.

3. Testicular cancer, isn't that what Lance Armstrong had?

Yes, that is what Lance Armstrong had, although his case was much more advanced than Reese's by the time it was diagnosed in 1996. And hey, look at him now! Other famous testicular cancer survivors include: Tom Green, Scott Hamilton, Dan Abrams, Richard Belzer, and many other well-known professional athletes, including U.S. swimmer Eric Shanteau, who competed in the Beijing Olympics last summer.

4. My aunt/grandpa/gardener/landlady had cancer and he/she just took a pill for chemotherapy or had a pump that she wore around and wasn't sick or didn't lose his hair at all. What's up with Reese?

Reese's cancer has been quite an education for us. Dr. Google and I have become great friends, plus we do truly have a wonderful real-life oncologist, Dr. Minow, who is very patient and always open to questions. What I never realized about cancer, until our experience, is that there are so many different kinds and each particular one has its own specific treatment. If you have lung cancer, there are certain procedures and drugs that will treat it. If you have skin cancer, there are different procedures and drugs that will treat that. It's the same with testicular cancer. What Reese is receiving (BEP chemotherapy) is the absolute gold standard of care for the kind of cancer and staging that he has. There's really not any other way it's dealt with, so we can be confident that he's getting exactly what he needs.

While modern science has made tremendous advances and people can sometimes take a pill instead of being hooked up to an IV, or not have to be sick and lose their hair, those sorts of drugs don't work for testicular cancer. The great news is that treatment for testicular cancer has improved tremendously in the last 30-some years. Due to the pioneering work of Dr. Lawrence Einhorn and his exploration of platinum-based chemotherapy, the survival rate for testicular cancer patients has risen from 10% to 95%. Wow! Makes you want to donate to cancer research, doesn't it?

Do you know what else is cool? Our doctor, Dr. Minow, did training with Dr. Einhorn way back when and also consults with him on an as needed basis. Reese is in very good hands.

5. How can we help you?

Trust us...you are all doing exactly what you need to. For those of you that have offered specific help, you are definitely on our mental "call list" and we will continue to call you when we need you, without hesitation. For those of you who are far away, we know you love us and are with us in spirit. Just please continue to keep up with our news, pray for us, and please don't worry. We love you all and appreciate your concern, kind words, and prayers!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

My manna pile

Today is Sunday, and while Reese rested at home, the kids and I were able to soak up a lot of love and hugs from everyone at church. I can't count how many times I answered the question, "How's Reese doing today?" with, "Well, if it's not one thing, it's another." The Emend really does seem to have helped significantly with his nausea, vomiting, and appetite. Unexpectedly though, he now has quite a bit of bone pain from yesterday's Neulasta shot. No amount of pain relievers, heating pads, and hot baths seem to be giving him complete relief. His ribs, arms, back, and joints ache like he's about 100 years old, and it's been nearly impossible to get comfortable for very long. He didn't have any problems with the Neulasta shot the last round, so I wasn't anticipating that being a big problem this time. If it's not one thing, it's another.

Reese's cancer experience has been one big exercise in giving up control. I do not like giving up control. Here I thought that if I had enough meals scheduled, enough childcare back-up planned, enough bottles of medication on the bathroom counter, and enough healthy and palatable food in the fridge, that we could handle this weekend and it wouldn't be so scary and frustrating. I do not like giving up control, but the truth is that I am not in control. God is.

When the Israelites were journeying through the desert to the Promised Land, there was a lot of grumbling. There was a lot of, "God, it's too dirty, hot, cold, dangerous, uncomfortable, unfamiliar, scary...whatever." I get the Israelites. I tend to grumble a lot too. When they were hungry, God gave them manna -- little flakes of sweet bread that rained down from the sky to feed them. If they tried to pick up more than enough for the day, it would turn rotten in time. Whatever was left on the ground, melted away in the hot afternoon sun. There was just enough for everyone, every day.

It would feel good to hoard up a big manna pile in my spiritual pantry, rather than going out to gather it every day. If I had a big manna pile saved in the corner, then I would know exactly how God was going to work things out ahead of time and have tangible proof that everything was going to be okay. But God doesn't operate that way, or at least He tends not to with stubborn me. He is less about me being self-sufficient and more about Him being all sufficient.

Why does God keep me guessing? Is it to punish me or make me feel insignificant? Hosea 13:5-6 sums it up best: "I cared for you in the desert, in the land of burning heat. When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me." When I start to think I've got it all figured out, I get proud and I forget him. He wants relationship with me most of all. He wants me to depend on him every single day for what I need. He has never failed me in that, even though I still fight and often forget his goodness.

So, I will try, even though I hate it, to see cancer as God's way of keeping me right by his side. I will choose to see Him teaching me to be humble. I will choose to see him showing me his faithfulness, every day, in the middle of the desert.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bring in the reinforcements

Yesterday, Reese got a boost in the form of a new nausea medication. It's called Emend and is a 3 pill pack that he can start in anticipation of the really bad nausea, take for three days, and still benefit from for another 2 days after. If all goes as planned, that should give him additional relief through Monday, which is when the worst of the side effects started to lift in round 1.

I have to say I was a bit shocked when the Target pharmacy tech rang up my bill for $133 (and that's our copay after insurance!). I also have to say that if it works like it's supposed to, I'd be willing to pay at least four or five times that amount. If the nausea lets up, he might actually have time to be bothered by the other side effects: ringing in his ears, headaches, insomnia, mental fog, and swelling. He's got all of those too, but they pale in comparison to the frustration of the constant nausea. He's been a great patient this week -- no complaints or grumbling going in today. Yay for the final EP treatment of round 2!

The Emend does seem to be having some effect already, that I can see. Reese is really wiped out after today's infusion, but he's able to eat every few hours and keep it down so far. He even had a tiny bowl of Ben & Jerry's last night while we watched The Office. Any small improvement is improvement, and I'm thankful for it.

Speaking of the Target pharmacy, I was completely alone (no kids) at Target for what seems like the first time in months. Dave and Steph had taken all of the kids out for an afternoon of fun and I had 45 minutes to wait for Reese's prescription to be filled. Forty-five minutes all to myself to use the regular changing room, not the handicapped one where you have to shove your kids and shopping cart in while they whine and drop popcorn all over the floor, yet I could not find a single thing to try on. What is wrong with me? *Gasp* What is wrong with Target?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Childlike faith

Ellery has a routine conversation that she begins most every day after we drop Daddy off at Dr. Minow's office. By the time we're pulling out of the parking lot, I usually hear her gravelly morning voice from the seat behind mine:

E: Mommy, where's Daddy going?

C: He's going to the doctor's.

E: Did he get sick?

C: Yes, he got sick. He got cancer.

E: Oh, they will listen to his heart and give him a shot and he will be all better!

C: All better, honey. Daddy will be all better.

Oh to live in a world where three-year old reality was true -- a world where shots always worked and always made you better! She doesn't think in terms of five-year survival rates, side effects, complications, and relapses. She just thinks about Daddy being the coolest, strongest man in her life and how much she loves him.

There is something in our every day conversation that comforts me. I sometimes get caught up in doubt, but am encouraged by Mark 9:24 where the father of a sick boy says to Jesus, "I believe, but help me not to doubt!" Jesus, I believe, but help me not to Google too much or lie in bed at night and think about worst case scenarios. I believe, but I kinda don't believe sometimes (or at least act like I don't believe), and God is okay with that. Childlike faith isn't perfect faith, but a faith where belief always wins out in the end. It's an assurance that God is going to be enough for me and I can trust his word, no matter what happens.

Reese is doing about as expected for day 3 of the second cycle -- pretty yucky. He's back into his all Chicken Noodle Soup all the time phase. I bought some protein powder on Amazon.com to make smoothies for him. I ordered the 5 pound size, thinking that it couldn't be all that big. It is BIG. It is taller and wider than the blender itself. I guess I got a little carried away, but it's a testament to how badly I wish I could make him feel better. My wishes are not wimpy 12 ounce zip-top bag wishes, they are 5 pound plastic canister wishes, baby! Big wishes. Unfortunately, there's only so much that my efforts (including protein powder) can do to take away the pain and sickness, and that's frustrating for me.

That same faith-filled, rambunctious three year-old decided that there wasn't enough trauma (and drama) in our household last night. She tripped and fell on the concrete patio, chipping several of her teeth. The dentist patched her up as well as she could and told us that time will tell if they survive or if the Tooth Fairy pays Ellery a very early visit.

It's been a long 24 hours and I think I'm looking forward to it being tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Done, done, on to the next one

This past weekend marked the end of round one and beginning of round two -- Reese is 1/3 of the way there! He felt really good on Sunday, which made it doubly hard to start all over again, but every day down is one he won't have to face again. Reese's blood counts were stable yesterday, so he got the go-ahead to begin his treatment. Thank you for all your prayers on that front!

As we'd anticipated, the side effects seem to have kicked in sooner with this round. We had a great tri-tip dinner with the Martins last night and it was downhill from there. We're hoping that some fine tuning of Reese's anti-nausea medication can help. I also bought him a bunch of different ginger lozenges and chews toward the middle of last round, which are reported to help with nausea. If they don't work for him, maybe I'll hold a give-away on the blog for about 7 pounds of ginger candy!

I never got back to sleep after helping Reese out in the middle of the night, so I had a few quiet moments to myself in the early morning. I just opened my e-mail to news that our good friend Stephanie is headed down south to be with her father -- diagnosed just last week with Myeloma (a blood cancer) and now hospitalized with pneumonia. More dear friends of ours lost a father last month to Mesothelioma (a cancer of the protective organ lining caused by asbestos exposure). Reese's parents also have a very good friend who is undergoing chemotherapy for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (a cancer of the blood and bone marrow). Please join us in praying for these men and the families that love them. Collin and I were in the car the other day and he said, "Mom, I have a lot of scary things going on in my life right now." I know what he means. Cancer sucks.

My household is starting to wake up for the day, so it's time to go get lost in the busyness of cereal pouring, backpack stuffing, and locating matching socks. Thank you so much for loving and supporting us. We feel it deeply.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


He likes my blog. I have to say I'm surprised, but Reese likes my blog! It's a surprise because Reese usually doesn't get internet stuff. He doesn't really understand the fascination with facebook, twitter, blogs, flickr, forums, picnik, online browsing, and the like. Give him 15 minutes to check his stock quotes and fantasy football stats and he's done. The other day, he was so bored, he asked me, "So, what exactly do you do all the time online?" I gave him about 10 suggestions and he didn't really like any of them, so he shut his laptop off and read a book. But he likes my blog.

He thinks my blog is funny. He thinks my blog is well written. He has even, on occasion, been known to read parts of my blog out loud to nurses and random people.

If Reese ever started a blog, which I know he wouldn't, I would like it too. I would bookmark it, check it every day, add it to my Google Reader, and even leave him comments about how awesome he is. He is the funniest, most true person I know and he has a great vocabulary to boot. Alas, I'll have to blog for both of us.

In other news, the hair all came out today. It was starting to come out in little tufts and covering his pillow every morning, so it was time to deal with it once and for all. He scrubbed most of it out in the shower, then took the Timblins' clippers to it, and finally shaved the rest. He has a really nicely shaped head, I have to say - no big bumps, ridges, or freckles. Bye bye hair, see you in July.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cruel to be kind

We are in the midst of enjoying the calm before the storm. Life seems about 75% normal in this second half of week three: Reese has some energy, a pretty good appetite, and hair that is holding on (though barely). We've been enjoying football games, our home fellowship group, walking the dog, and even a tour to a new private school we're considering for next year. I offer up a silent prayer of thanks every time I hear him growling to Sadie as he plays a game of razzle or laughing deeply at Ellery's antics. Normal sounds. Sounds I'm used to.

In the back of our minds though, the minutes are ticking down to Monday morning when he'll be back in the chemotherapy chair, ready to endure the whole cycle over again. Although I'm thankful for this break, it seems almost cruel to let someone get mostly happy and healthy before slamming them all over again with such an arsenal of chemicals. The house will grow quiet once more and the kids will be shushed, "Settle down guys, Daddy's resting."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Picking up speed

After being the ultimate couch potato for the past few days (with good reason) Reese is off to the office for a few hours again. You can only eat so much chicken noodle soup (thanks Binckes family!) and watch so much Chronicles of Riddick (thanks Weber family!) before you go a little nutty, so the outing should do him some good. Plus, it's Administrative Professionals' day and I think he didn't want to miss the chance to wish Christina, the most awesome assistant ever, a happy day and thank her for putting up with him! He promised he'll be back home by lunch time, but I'm not holding my breath.

He felt pretty run down over the weekend and up until yesterday when he finally got some good solid naps. The boys are back to school now that Spring Break is over, so that certainly helped. He compared the tiredness to how you feel after you've cleaned the garage all day long, except that you haven't done anything but sit around the house. It's just that bone-deep kind of tiredness that calls you right back to the couch after you fetch something from the kitchen, and makes taking a shower seem like a huge task.

His Bleomycin infusion was fairly uneventful on Monday. He had less aches and pains from it this time and no fever. His platelet count, however, was so low that the nurses had to get confirmation from the doctor before giving him his treatment. So, he won't be playing any broom hockey or running with scissors, and we're praying that he won't have trouble with nosebleeds, which he gets frequently (nosepicker! just kidding). Hopefully, that problem will resolve by Monday, when he starts all over again with the etoposide and cisplatin regimen. It's hard to believe that he's practically on to cycle #2.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hat shopping

It's time. The last few early mornings, Reese's cheeks have been baby soft, when they are normally so prickly I wrinkle up my nose when I kiss him. His poor little hair follicles are saying, "We surrender!" He had a hair cut appointment previously scheduled and considered cancelling it altogether, but instead had John cut it super short in preparation. He's hoping this way the drain won't get clogged up in our shower when it starts to come out.

Do you know how hard it is to find a soft knit hat in April in Southern California? Luckily, I am the Queen of Internet Shopping. If you Google "chemotherapy hats", it actually pulls up quite a few options, but some of them are definitely NOT going to work. Here are just a few from a site that specializes in hats for people dealing with hair loss:
too jaunty

too Euro

too Gangsta

too, uh...elvish?

Can you imagine him in some of these? I promise I will NOT turn to Photoshop to give you a visual. Reese is really not a "hat guy", so maybe that's why this is proving particularly difficult. I mean, when he's golfing or we're in the sun all day long at Disneyland, he'll wear a baseball cap (usually with a Grateful Dead logo on it), but those are a bit scratchy. I can't imagine him wearing a cap all that frequently after he loses his hair, but that treatment room in the oncology office can get pretty chilly. It's just one of those things we'll be getting used to. Our new normal. We'll let you know what he ends up picking.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pressed on every side

We've been learning about science in our house. Not just the kind of science you might be thinking of: platinum based chemotherapy, white blood cells, PET scans, vasovagal episodes, and all that. We've been learning about egg science, rather "how to keep an egg from cracking under pressure" science. Last week, the boys' school hosted an Egg Drop event for all of the 2nd grade classes.
Each student was asked to create a special vehicle/cushion which when dropped from the roof of the school (by the principal) would protect a raw egg and keep it from splattering all over the tetherball courts. The boys came up with all sorts of ideas in their brainstorming: hair gel, confetti, sewing the egg inside a football, paper towel rolls, rubber bands...which would work best to keep that egg safe?
They came up with some pretty great ideas and were very proud of the end result. Cade named his "Cade's Cactus Cooler Cushion" and Collin's was "Collin's Clorox Collision Craft", in honor of the outer plastic containers they each chose.

It didn't matter what kind of creative vehicle was chosen, every single egg that day got thrown off the roof. There was no avoiding that. Life is like that, and there's no escaping hardship somewhere down the road: cancer, a rebellious teenager, a marriage that's been given up on, a layoff notice, the loss of someone much loved. Why me? Why NOT me? It's bound to happen sometime. The difference that day, for those eggs, was not in somehow preventing being thrown over the edge, but how they were cushioned. Helping Dad through cancer is teaching us all about cushioning our own hearts too.

II Corinthians 4:7-9 says: "But this precious treasure-this light and power that now shine within us-is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going." These past six months, I've certainly had times when I felt pressed on every side by cancer...hunted down, even. It's a tough one to shake, and there is truly nothing about me that is capable of withstanding such a blow. In my own power, I'm about as good a cushion as a thin layer of Kleenex. Any resiliency I have is because no matter what, my very fragile heart is being protected in the most amazing way by God's constant presence. He is more than enough cushion, and he is proving that day after day to Reese and me.

Reese is continuing to have a pretty good week, all things considered. He even felt well enough to go into the office for a few hours today (partly because he needed to pick up a new laptop power cord since the dog chewed through it, and partly because he just can't stay away from those guys!). They were about ready to bar the door, or at least make him wear a germ-free breathing mask, but they know as well as I do how stubborn he can be once he's decided to do something. He appreciated everyone's good wishes for continued recovery and made a fairly speedy exit after taking care of a few things. We also enjoyed a great head-to-head flag football game tonight between Cade's Cal Bears and Collin's Indiana Hoosiers. It was one for the history books, for sure! When I go downstairs, I'm sure that I'll find he's fallen asleep on the couch after such a long day. We're looking forward to a restful weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

R & R

We are enjoying doing absolutely nothing around here. Absolutely nothing. We are shuffling around in our PJ's, eating off paper plates, and watching Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. It's kind of like vacation (except that it's about cancer), and this morning I had that weird thing where it feels like Saturday, but it's actually a regular old weekday. We are recuperating and trying our best, with relaxation and lots of fluids, to wash the yuck of the last week out of our systems. It's working well for me, and I think it's even working for Reese. Thank you so much to Dave & Steph and Nana for watching the kids, Reese's team for holding down the fort at CKE, and everyone else who is pitching in to help us flake out on all of our other responsbilities.

Reese had a little discomfort last night from the bleo treatment. He had the expected fever and aches, but by the time he got up this morning, he was feeling much better. I am pleasantly surprised at how well he's doing today. He's not excited about food, but he's eating it. He can go a couple of hours without a cat nap. He hasn't watched too much bad TV (although he did watch the same episode of The Colbert Report twice today).

A family friend e-mailed me a link to her blog where she's posted a precious snippet of dialogue between her daughter and herself and thoughts about cancer. Lisa, her husband, and two daughters are good friends and next door neighbors to my mom. Cade and Collin enjoy playing with the girls whenever they visit Nana's house, and always return home with tales of their adventures together. You can check out Lisa's post at Books on the Brain. Since Reese's diagnosis, we've also had some very enlightening and funny conversations with our kids about body parts. I think you'll like this one. While you're over there, click around and soak up her wonderful blog -- it's a treasure trove of resources, discussions, and reviews for any lover of books. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

What a difference a day makes

Reese is feeling so much better today, what a huge improvement! Yesterday was really rough and I got to thinking that if this was just the start of the peak, the rest of it was going to be unbearable. Fortunately, the nausea and exhaustion seem to have tapered off quite a bit. In fact, I think I can hear him downstairs, unloading the dishwasher. I should probably go stop him and make him get back on the couch...or maybe not. Thank you for all the prayers and kind notes. He's still popping his pills every eight hours, on the dot, but they are actually helping now.

His brother Dave is taking him to see the oncologist and have his Bleomycin infusion today. This medicine has some nasty side effects (usually fever and chills), but they should be short-lived. Thank goodness it does not usually cause too much nausea. Some people have asked for a way to track Reese's treatment schedule (it's pretty confusing), so I've added a little calendar widget on the right hand column, so you can see what's coming up. Not everything is scheduled with the office yet, so the times for future appointments may not be accurate, but the days are set.

The boys are on spring break, so we are off to do some fun things this morning and then prepare for about 3 days of playdate/sleepover mania (at other people's homes). They are pumped!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Redeemer

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. -- Job 10:25

Today, I am thinking about how glad I am to have a Redeemer. Not only has Christ conquered death and redeemed my soul, but because of that, he can redeem any situation I face. There is no pain, no anxiety, no weakness, no bitterness, and no fear that he can not ultimately recover and use for his glory. He takes horrible things and turns them into something beautiful... valuable... honorable. On a day when my favorite person in the whole world is too tired to help the kids hunt for eggs and too sick to enjoy Easter dinner, I am finding strength in my Redeemer. Happy Easter, everyone.

**Adding** Many of you have mentioned having trouble leaving comments on the blog. I've fiddled around with the settings, and I think you should be able to now. Right below here, where it says "posted by Cara 2:10 pm", click next to that on COMMENTS, then choose "Name/URL" as your option for "Comment as". Enter your name (skip the URL), hit submit, then enter your comment. Give it a try and let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


If any of you pregnant ladies want to commiserate over symptoms with Reese, he's game. The therapy has turned him into a nauseated, swollen insomniac who is sensitive to smells and a little bit crabby. He must have octuplets in there, because it's worse than any pregnancy I've ever seen. Luckily, we're looking at 9 weeks of it, not 9 months.

The good news is that the nurses have given him the okay to celebrate Easter at church tomorrow with friends and family, as long as he's feeling up to it (and that part is still TBD). So, if you see him, refrain from big slobbery kisses and handshakes, but know he's very glad to see you!

Reese is updating our Netflix queue so he'll have lots of DVD's for the week ahead. Anyone have good suggestions? (not you, Garet...I kid, I kid!) We're off to the doctor's office in a bit to get his Neulasta shot which will help keep his white blood cells up . Please pray that he doesn't have too much bone pain, which is often associated with this drug. It works by revving up the bone marrow to make more WBC's and can be somewhat painful. Thank you!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Quote of the day

A brief picture of how we're feeling today...

Reese: I don't want to go. I'm tired. I think I'm cured already, probably. I don't think I need any more chemo. Can't I just stay home today? (said while sitting on the couch with his best two-year old whining impression).

Me: Come on! Last full day, it's Friday! You can do it! (said with her best peppy cheerleader impression).

Reese: *grumble, grumble* Okay, okay.

Yep, that's about it in a nutshell.

The truth is that there is nowhere I'd rather be than sitting on the couch with him with hot ginger tea and pretzels, watching James Bond movies or DVR'd Amazing Race and not thinking at all about cancer. But that is not going to happen. So off we go, into the car and down the street to the red brick building where they are both making him miserable and saving his life at the same time.

Please pray for Reese as he goes into the weekend. His body will be very susceptible to infection around this time, and it's hard to balance taking care of himself with wanting to celebrate Easter with our friends and family. Cade and Ellery have both come down with Fifth Disease, which is not even really that bothersome to most kids and adults, but not a good thing for an immuno-suppressed person to have. They aren't contagious now, but obviously have been in the past week or so. There's only a remote chance that he would be affected by it anyway, but it's a vivid reminder that our Daddy, who can usually survive the whole day on 5 cups of coffee, 2 echinacea tablets, and a 6 Dollar Pastrami Burger, is more fragile right now than we're used to.

Thank you SO much for all of your wonderful e-mails, blog comments, facebook posts, cards, prayers, and phone messages. We definitely feel all of your loving arms around us, even if we're too busy or tired to get back to you. You are all an incredible blessing to us, and your support is felt deeply.

Sorry I don't have time to type out more details, but know that Reese is doing fine, considering where he is in the process, and is well taken care of. He's very tired and in a bit of a fog, but using his medication to combat much of the other side effects. Spring classroom parties for the boys, sewing an Easter dress for Ellery (I know, nothing like the last minute), and a rambunctious puppy keep me from blogging more! Love to you all.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

There really are chemo drugs in there

Yesterday was a great day for Reese. He took the dog for a walk in the evening, ate a great dinner, and even assembled Ellery's birthday present (a wooden doll highchair). He went to bed pretty early, but I chalked that up to wanting to avoid watching Dancing with the Stars with me. Today it's apparent that yes, they really are putting chemotherapy drugs in those little I.V. bags. He's pretty tired out and feeling a bit nauseous. Nothing a ($80 per pill!) Zofran and a nap can't cure, but definitely noticeable.

He also had an episode today where his blood pressure plummeted when they put in his I.V. (likely related to why, as my labor coach, he almost fainted watching my epidural). We're going to hope that doesn't happen again, but the nurses took it in stride and simply accused him of trying to liven up the day just because he was getting bored with Sudoku.

On a side note, happy birthday to our sweet girl, Ellery, who turns three years old today. Thanks baby for being such a source of joy and a great distraction from all things cancer. You are Daddy's couch cuddler, edamame nibbler, Madeline's Rescue listener, home from work hugger, and all-around sidekick and we love you very much.

Monday, April 6, 2009

1 down, 62 more to go

The first day of chemo was completely uneventful, which is exactly what we wanted. Other than Collin staying home from school with a sore throat and cough (which magically improved under Nana's care and White Chocolate Mocha therapy), all went as planned, and we were out the door and checked in by 8:30. Reese picked the most comfy looking recliner from the hodge podge of eight that were assembled in the back room of the oncology office, and settled in for his 5 hour day. There wasn't much that I could do to help, and the recliners started to quickly fill up with other patients, so I left after seeing how well taken care of he was. I guess five full-time oncology R.N.'s can handle him if they all pull together! After a saline drip, anti-nausea meds, steroids, bleomycin, cisplatin, etoposide, and more fluids, he was cleared to go home for the day. Mental note: bring the cord for the DVD player, because the 2 hour internal battery is NOT going to cut it.

Although he offered to give the dog a bath when we returned home (who had decided to dig a muddy hole in the back yard this morning), we shooed him upstairs where he's been dutifully resting on the bed, working on his laptop. A quick trip to pick up his repaired car from the dealership and a wonderful dinner, provided by good friends, broke up the monotony.

Reese is scheduled for three cycles of chemotherapy, each three weeks long. Dr. Minow (our oncologist) told Reese that the effects of the chemotherapy will be much like a dimmer switch on a light. In the beginning, he won't feel much, but as this first week draws to an end and the chemotherapy begins to accumulate in his body, he definitely will. Extreme tiredness, nausea, and an increased susceptibility to infection are the main concerns during week two. Then, he'll start to perk up around the third week-- and maybe even feel almost normal -- which means it's time to start the process all over again with the next cycle.

I have a mental calendar in my mind of the next 9 weeks -- one day is checked off and we're on to day number two.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What does "Better Hands Now" mean, anyway?

Last fall, I heard Natalie Grant perform at the Women of Faith Conference in Anaheim. She has a beautiful voice, really strong and powerful, but with an incredible sweetness. One of the songs that really stood out was "In Better Hands". It's a song about coming to the end of yourself and handing over to God the things that you'd really rather try to hold tightly in your own control. When you do, you see that those things are in much "better hands" than they ever were before. I wouldn't fully appreciate the truth of that song until Reese was diagnosed with testicular cancer about a month later. My favorite lyrics from the song are:

I am strong all because of you
I stand in awe of every mountain that you move
Oh I am changed, yesterday is gone
I am safe from this moment on
There's no fear when the night comes 'round
I'm in better hands now

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Surveillance flunkie

You knew it was only a matter of time before the internet junkie got herself a blog. In my mind, I'd always imagined it would be a sewing blog, life with 3 kids blog, photography blog (or whatever hobby of the month I'm obsessed with)...not a cancer blog. Cancer blog it is, though. Maybe I'll throw in some sewing and pictures of kids when things get low, but it seems like a blog will be a great way to keep those we love in the loop about Reese's progress.

The basic plan is that Reese will start BEP (bleomycin, etoposide, cisplatin) therapy on Monday. After a whirlwind 2 months hammering out CKE's annual financial reports at work, he got a call from his oncologist saying he wanted to see Reese one week earlier than they'd originally scheduled to discuss his CAT scan results. It is never a good thing when your oncologist says he wants you to come in right away. Apparently, a few pesky cancer cells got loose before the surgeon got the original tumor out and now those cells have settled in some lymph nodes near his vena cava and aorta. We flunked surveillance. Or maybe we nailed surveillance -- if that's what the plan was. We were to keep watching and waiting to see if any cancer cells show up, and that's exactly what happened.

Reese is cramming to get everything taken care of before his 9 weeks of hibernation begin. Unpacking boxes for a move to a new office, PET scan and pulmonary function test, stocking up on books and movies, kicking a caffeine addiction, fixing car brakes...there are better and worse times to start chemotherapy, but there's never a good time. Right now, the boys think it's cool that Dad's going to go bald. Dad doesn't feel the same way about that.

We're going to enjoy the rest of the week, take in some flag football games, stuff Reese with all of his favorite foods, take naps, celebrate Ellery's birthday, and try not to Google too much.

The day after we found out that Reese was going to have to go through chemotherapy, God gave me the most timely encouragement at our Thursday morning Bible study. We've been working through the fruit of the spirit (Beth Moore's Living Beyond Yourself) and were just finishing up 3 weeks on faith (okay God, okay!). We started with a passage from Isaiah, a promise from God for those who trust him: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Isaiah 43:1-3)

Not only do I have the reassurance that the hand of God will be holding my head above water, but there's blessing waiting on the other side of the trial. Maybe it's a renewed understanding of God's grace, a deeper connection with those we love, compassion and courage developing in my children, someone who trusts Christ as their Savior? I don't know what it will be, but it's going to be good. When I feel like I'm getting swallowed up by the waves, I need to trust in the One who ransomed me and remember the shore is not too far off. The crossing itself is going to be miserable, but the other side is going to be good.