Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Lily from A Local State Park

My Life Testimony

At the young age of eight or nine, I began attending a Wednesday night children's program. One of my friends and I went together to Awana. I know now that it was not an accident that I attended -- it was by divine appointment. During one of those programs, I accepted Jesus as my Personal Savior. I will never forget that night in the 1970's or the dear lady who prayed the prayer of salvation with me. Instantly, I became a new creature in Christ. A couple of years ago, I read her obituary in the local newspaper and knew that the Lord had given her a "well done, thy good and faithful servant."

Unfortunately, little spiritual growth took place in the following years. Most of my life was led as a moral person, believing that good deeds were all that was required to get into Heaven. Good deeds are not what He asks of us. He asks for a repentant heart, our worship, submission to His Word, and a powerful dependence upon Him. Although I had accepted Christ as my Savior, He certainly was not Lord of my life. I was His child and He had written my name in the Lamb's Book of Life, yet, I only knew about Him. I was on a journey to know Him and to experience Him in His fullness.

Three realms of influence have contributed most to my spiritual growth and discipleship -- people, problems, and praise. People. I think of three people who have most discipled me on my Christian walk. Shortly after I was married, the Lord placed a faithful servant in our lives. Wilma was the wife of one of my husband's employees. She discipled and mentored me for many years. She was faithful to pray for me, encourage me, and teach me. I will never forget how she and her husband traveled over 700 miles to come to our side when one of our premature babies had surgery. We had no idea that they were coming. The nurses had just taken our baby girl from my arms and were walking her to the operating room. I had collapsed on the floor, sobbing with heartache. When I lifted up my head, there stood Wilma and her husband. She actively lived out what she taught and believed.

During the early years of our marriage and motherhood, I grew in my Christian walk, but upon reflection, I know that although I was justified through Him, the process of complete surrender and sanctification was just underway. The second person who mentored me on my life journey was Pastor Mathias. He was our pastor from 1991-1998. I have never met a man who personified holiness in all that he said and did, like Pastor Mathias exemplified. He walked the walk and talked the talk. It was during those years that I rededicated my life to Christ and made the steps necessary to completely surrender all that I was and all that I wanted to become to the Lord. I recall in 1994 telling my husband that I had found true peace and joy in my life.

Karen, the wife of our Pastor in the late 1990's and early years of the twenty-first century, is the third person to have a profound on my impact on my growth as a Christian. I met Karen in 1998. She is a faith-filled woman of God and she built my faith for healing once I was diagnosed with leukemia. She and her husband challenged my faith as a Christian and corrected me when I wavered at bad reports from my doctors. Karen helped me to be more faithful in praising through the difficult times of life. She was a teacher who exemplified what a leader in the Body of Christ should personify. I pray I will become a leader like Karen. She reminded me of Nehemiah -- full of prayer, always seeking God's direction, prepared to do spiritual warfare, motivating of those around her, and undaunted by the biggest tasks that God assigns. If God used Nehemiah to rebuild the wall in 52 days, I KNOW that He can take a humble servant like me and work through me to do mighty deeds.

Problems. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials or many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). My life has been replete with trials and tribulations. I have always attempted to make the most of every life event and to see God's hand moving in these situations.

These are the "facts" and "reports" of man. We have nearly lost all three of our daughters after birth. I nearly lost my life in 1990 when I developed a blood clot in my lung. And when I was diagnosed with leukemia, we had no medical insurance since two of our children had pre-existing medical conditions that made purchasing insurance nearly impossible.

Now I will state the "truth": God has been faithful to our family. He has restored health, touched and healed our sick bodies, Jehovah Jirah has provided for all of our needs, jobs have been replaced, and He has been a God of restoration. Our God is a God who keeps all His loving promises. He has put the desire in my heart to be a light and a voice for Him and His Kingdom. And for as long as He has ordained for me to live on this earth, I will be those things for Him.

Praise. In order to count all of these trials as pure joy, praise has had to be present in my life. I take praise and worship music with me to the hospital. I take my MP3 player along with praise music to scans, IV treatments, and other medical adventures. The garment of praise definitely removes the spirit of heaviness in my life. We can choose to be downcast and depressed over our life situations, or we can trust God and praise Him as we wait for our heartfelt prayers to manifest.

The Lord has revealed to me, over and over again, that this illness will bring glory to God and will be a tool used to see the salvation of my lost family members and others seeking a relationship with God. This has been my prayer. And God is answering. Several of our family members have accepted Christ in the past few years and several others are asking and seeking.

Through these people, problems, and praises, I have grown to know and love Him deeper with each passing year. He is my Everything. He is my Hope and my Healer. He is my Life and my Love. I only want to be as faithful to Him as He has been to me. I am thankful that despite the hardship and adversity that I have encountered in my life, that the Lord has encouraged me to remain faithful. I look forward to seeing future generations of my family continue this legacy of faith.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

It has been two weeks since I traveled to OSU to seek their input and recommendations for the treatment of this leukemia. Today, I am no closer to making a decision than I was two weeks ago. I am scheduled to return to OSU in mid-August to confer with the specialists about what decision I have arrived at.

I am fortunate and blessed to have a mind that is inquisitive and a seeker of knowledge. On the other hand, assembling all of this data and information tends to muddy the waters of my decision making process. In my opinion, there are a couple of treatment options worth consideration.

I was sold on the recommendation to use low-dose splenic irradiation. I had completed my research, consulted with a radiation oncologist, and was moving in that direction. Then support from my local doctor as well as the OSU specialist was non-existent. Without local support, the radiation oncologist said he would not proceed. Door closed.

I could return to Rituxan, the monoclonal antibody that was the last treatment I received. I have had a serious, life-threatening reaction to this drug, but it did give me a few years with the leukemia being relatively calm, although a remission was never achieved. Some experts are using low-dose versions of this protocol and that is intriguing to me, but again, I've had difficulty obtaining support from physicians for this protocol. It is available as a clinical trial at the NIH, but I do not know if I am up to the travel again.

The OSU specialist is eager for me to use the drug Revlimid. It is an immuno-modulating drug that works in a different method than typical chemotherapeutic drugs. This drug would have to be taken in the context of a clinical trial at OSU. Some travel would be involved, but OSU is much closer than Washington, DC. My concern with this drug is the potential for serious, life-threatening side effects.

The "king" of all CLL treatments is transplant -- either stem cell or cord blood transplant. I am not a person known to take risks, and most transplants offer a 50% chance of death from the procedure. It is (outside of God's intervention) the only medical treatment that has any potential for my having a new immune system established and a shot at a normal life expectancy. Big risks. Big rewards.

The last option, which is one that I am seriously considering, is to do absolutely nothing. There is no known cure. When I read through hundreds of pages of data, this is the, albeit sobering, bottom line. Yet, it is the human spirit to fight for life and follow the medical experts. Do I have the courage to disengage from conventional medicine and simply live out what time God has appointed for me?

For those of you who are information junkies like myself, I have inserted links after each treatment option. If you review any of this information and have a brilliant revelation, please share it with me.

I appreciate your prayers as I continue to travel toward a treatment decision.

"May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" Ephesians 1:17

Advice for Daily Living from the Book of Ephesians

Bear with one another in love.
Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit.
Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
Put away lying.
Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil
speaking be put away from you.
Be kind to one another.
Be imitators of God.
Walk in love.
Walk as children of light.
Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather expose them.
Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the
Lord is.
Give thanks always.
Children, obey your parents.
Know that whatever good anyone does, he will receive
the same from the Lord.
Be strong in the Lord.

Forget the War Against Terror – We are Fighting Germ Warfare

U.S. President George W. Bush articulated the goals of the "war on terrorism" in a September 20, 2001 speech, in which he said it "will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated".

Forget the war on terror, we are a nation fighting germ warfare. It’s a similar war that involves finding, stopping, and defeating an enemy invisible to the naked eye. Citizens from sea to shining sea are aptly focused on eradicating each and every germ about to gain entrance into their homes, vehicles, or businesses.

Gaze at store aisles today and one will note a plethora of anti-germ agents. Hand sanitizers, antibacterial wipes, soaps, sprays, and cleaners are but a sampling of the weapons against America’s war against germs. As a child, I never recall my mother frantically searching for an antibacterial wipe to clean the grocery cart before she sat me in the seat. And we never used hand sanitizer before dining out. We happily played in the dirt of our backyard with little regard to the fungi lurking in the sandbox. This germ warfare has certainly taken the fun our of living freely.

In principal, eliminating silent germs perching on each and every surface, sounds like a good plan of attack. However, some research in laboratories has shown that our germ warfare is contributing to the development of superbugs such as MRSA that become resistant to common drugs. However, other researchers believe that antibacterial products do not lead to resistant bugs.

Shocking to most soldiers engaged in germ warfare are recent findings that plain old-fashioned soap and water is as effective for eradicating germs as the antibacterial products. An article from WebMD quoted researcher Allison Aiello, PhD as stating, “Antibacterial soaps do not provide a benefit above and beyond plain soaps for generally healthy people living in the community."

Losing the war on germs are hospitals. The very places where the ill go, expecting to be healed, have turned into literal germ war zone. Superbugs have invaded some of the best hospitals in America. Limited budgets prevent education of staff members and patients about the risks associated with unsanitary practices. Worst yet, hospital staffs become negligent with hand washing and other preventive measures that protect patients against hospital acquired infections.

I personally have been the recipient of more than one hospital acquired infections. On one account, I was admitted to the hospital to receive a treatment to help my body to fight infections. Instead, I returned home and twenty-hour hours later, I was readmitted to the hospital with C difficile. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C difficile is responsible for at least 5000 deaths each year in the United States. Basic hand hygiene and expert cleaning and decontamination of hospital rooms could have prevented many of these deaths. Basic hand washing has been overlooked with the arrival of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Being severely immunocompromised due a lengthy battle with leukemia, I have become acutely aware of the many unlikely places that a terrorist germ might be lurking, waiting to attack my fragile immune system. Some might recall the boy in the plastic bubble film from many years ago. At times, I feel like that young man. I’m constantly on alert for an invasion of terrorist threats poised to wreck havoc in my body. Some might call me a mysophobiac (someone with an unusual concern about contamination or dirt) but so be it. I have learned after too many hospitalizations to count that being proactive with germ warfare benefits me and my quality of life.

Grab the hand sanitizers and soap and go on the offensive. MRSA and VRSA will not be the victors of this war against germs.

Divine Protection

It is important that when we consider Job of the Old Testament, that we note that very real spiritual darkness and forces were at work to misplace and upset one of God’s servants. It is all too easy to point fingers at God when our worlds are upset and our hearts are ripped in two. Yet, as God’s children we must step back from the very hurt and heartache that is impeding our Christian walk and remind ourselves of the darkness that attempts to envelope us. Return to the first Chapter of Job. Satan’s attack on Job, his family, his health, and his possessions is plotted, planned and executed by a very real enemy.

"And the Lord said to Satan, 'From where do you come?’

So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.’

Then the Lord said 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?’

So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’

And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person’.” (Job 1:6b-12)

Several noteworthy points demand our attention. Satan is a very real force to be dealt with in the spiritual realm. If you believe he is dressed in red and rarely leaves his hellish domain, you are mistaken. Here Satan had an outright discussion with God. He had been checking out the scene on earth. Satan knew who God's servants were. He knew who followed the Lord and who didn’t. He knew who had what, said what and did what.

On the other hand Satan was very aware of the Lord’s protection around Job. He recognized a "hedge of protection" around a man, his family and his property when he saw it. Does that not inspire you to go engage in spiritual warfare and enlist the Lord’s army of angels to entrench your property, loved ones, and self with His hedge of divine protection? Just as it was thousands of years ago in Job’s age, that kind of hedge protection is available to believers today.

In the 1990s’ our family went out to dinner with our best friends. From the natural viewpoint of life, that seemed like an innocent enough event. Our conversation that night turned to divine protection. And to hostage situations and to everyday dangers we face in everyday places. That night I was reminded and prompted to fervently pray for protection for my family.

The following day my husband called and told me to turn on the television. There was a hostage situation that had erupted at a restaurant next to his office. Not only had he been protected and had not entered that restaurant as he often did each morning, but also God’s faithfulness had prompted us to have this discussion on hostage situations the night before. That discussion had prompted me to spend extra time praying that night for that hedge of protection to be placed around my family.

To this day, when I recall the photos my husband took of sniper teams on top of his office on that day, I am reminded and rejoice at God’s protection. What we anticipated as only being a night of pizza was designed by His hand to prompt us to pray for that hedge of protection around our families.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Little Man's Nursery Sign At Our Home

Me? A Grandma?

In a few short weeks, I will become a Grandma for the first time. It’s humorous that as a child when I envisioned Grandmas, they didn’t look and act like ME. Grandmas wore their hair in buns (grey buns) and wore flowered frocks about the house. Granny’s baked bread and crocheted afghans. Grandmas smelled like muscle rub.

Last time I inspected, I didn’t locate a single, solitary grey hair (but then again I am in need of trifocals, so I might not have seen the grey hairs!). And although my Mom was convinced that I needed to wear my hair in a bun for every school photo, I’ve not been a bun connoisseur in decades. I prefer jeans and tennis shoes to frocks and florals and I tend to avoid muscle rub. After all, I’m not THAT old.

Has there been a Granny Revolution right before our eyes? I believe so. Unbeknownst to most of us, Grandmas have gone hip! Modern medicine has helped people to live longer and better. Modern cosmetics have made women appear to look better for their age. Modern technology has brought Grandmas from the age of knitting to cell phones, laptops, and blogging.

Yet in the midst of the Granny Revolution, one thing remains absolutely solidified: Grandmothers love their grandchildren. I can’t imagine any gift more wonderful than a grandchild. I will get to love and spoil him and then return to sender. My eyes begin to water when I envision the birth of Little Man in my imagination. I try to picture the emotions, the beauty, the joy of that upcoming moment. I believe it will be beyond description with mere words.

When Little Man is placed in this Grandma’s arms for the first time, I am certain my heart will melt. My heart will be instantly stolen. And it won’t even matter that I will step over into the ranks of Grandmothers. Bring on the grey hairs and even the crochet needles! I am honored to be called Grammy.

Monday, July 28, 2008


I refuse to be discouraged, to be sad, or cry,
I refuse to be downhearted and here's the reason why....
I have a God who's mighty, who's sovereign and supreme.
I have a God who loves me and I am on His team.

He is all wise and powerful, Jesus is His Name.
Though everything is changeable, my God remains the same.
My God knows all that's happening, beginning to the end
His presence is my comfort, He is my dearest friend.

When sickness comes to weaken me, to bring my head down low,
I call upon my Mighty God, into His arms I go.
When circumstances threaten to rob me from my peace,
He draws me close unto His breast, where all my sufferings cease.

And when my heart melts within me, and weakness takes control,
He gathers me into his arms, he soothes my heart and soul.
The great I AM is with me, my life is in His hand.
The Son of God is my hope, it's in His strength I stand.

I refuse to be defeated, my eyes are on my God.
He has promised to be with me, as through this life I trod.
I'm looking past all my circumstances to Heaven's throne above,
My prayers have reached the heart of God, I'm resting on His love.

I give God thanks in everything, my eyes are on His face.
The battle is His, the victory is mine, He'll help me win this race.

-Author Unknown

His Words: My Strength

Words from the Bible that I have written in the back of my Bible. I read and reread these Scriptures when I am sick or in the hospital. God has touched my body and healed me too many times to count.

I shall be restored to health.
Daughter, your faith has made you well.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
By His striped I am healed and made whole.
God's Words are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.
He sent His Word and healed me.
The tongue of the wise promotes health.
My strength and health are restored.
You have given your angels charge over me.
I hope in Your Word.
This is my comfort in affliction, Your Word has given me life.
Your Word has given me life.
The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God.
God -- who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.
Pray without ceasing.

More Songs for the Soul

"Jesus Messiah" by Chris Tomlin

"You Are Everything" by Matthew West

"Call on Jesus" by Nicole C. Mullen

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dining Out With Dignity

My grandparents traveled extensively. Having dined in the finest restaurants around the world, my Grandmother relished the elegant ambiance and culinary delights that a fine restaurant offered. At the age of 85, she continues to keep a white, linen tablecloth on her table. Dining was always a sensory experience for Grandma. Not surprisingly, all of this changed when our twin daughters and their baby sister arrived within fifteen months of each other.

Dinner time dramatically changed with the passage of our three children into the toddler years. Along with their increasing interest in food, also came the decline and ruination of our peaceful mealtimes. Linen place mats and tablecloths were replaced by plastic-vinyl-indestructible everything. Colorful plastic dishes and utensils emblazoned with cartoon favorites forced the china and silver into storage. Massive "drop cloths" placed under their hook-on-the-table seats attempted to catch spills and drops. One toddler dropping peas and spilling milk is adequate to evoke dining chaos. You can imagine the havoc that three toddles simultaneously learning to eat evoked.

I recall the memorable photograph that I sent to my Mother who lived seven hundred miles away. Wanting her to witness the girls' development firsthand, I proudly sent the photo. Grinning faces smeared with the beta carotene of cooked carrots and enough food on the tabletop to feed a Third World nation for months, shocked her. An immediate call from my mother, urged the implementation of more stringent table manners. After all, they would grow up to become ladies one day and might need to know how to master a knife and fork.

My husband and I debated the pros and cons surrounding the dilemma. While it was easier (and probably more satisfying to the girls) to allow them this endeavor in eating, we opted to begin initiating some new rules. Having been a childless couple who had always enjoyed dining out, we chose to begin introducing the girls to restaurant dining.

Ironically, my Grandmother (the lady who always viewed dining out as a pleasurable experience) came to visit near the time that we made this dining out decision. Not wanting to delay our children's introduction to Restaurant Dining 101, Great Grandma was invited to accompany us on this new adventure.

Opting for a family-type steak house instead of our favorite French cafe', we loaded our girls and Great Grandma into the car. We attempted to prepare "Great" for the possible scenario that we could encounter -- flying finger foods, crumbled crackers, and massive food remains buried beneath the table. She consoled us with her persistent rhetoric that included "everyone will understand with three small children" and "they are such good little girls, I know they will do just fine!" Obviously, "Great" had not witnessed the girls' eating attempts since the tidy act of breast feeding.

As expected, we began our evening with the frantic search for three high chairs. Two high chairs and one booster seat later, we were seated. All the while we were deciding on our menu choices, Grandma was doling out crackers. The cellophane pile began to mount as crackers crunched everywhere. Still in control of the situation, Grandma defended her actions by announcing, "I know crackers are a bit messy, but they are keeping the girls occupied."

Opting to take turns at the salad bar, we each took turns, keeping diligent watch over the toddlers while each other filled their plates. Little attention did I pay to the discretely placed salad bar sign that read, " NO SHARING". That is, little attention was given to the sign until Grandma returned with her place piled a mile high. She began the fine art of salad bar sharing. There was gelatin salad for one girl and crisp carrot sticks for another. Crunchy croutons were given to our youngest, teething toddler. Not certain of the penalties that were enforced for salad bar sharing, I nervously scanned the room. Illusions of my Grandma being escorted out by the salad bar enforcer or (gasp!) being charged full price for three additional salad bars startled me.

As Grandma had predicted, the tidbits of food continued to entertain and occupy little hands and mouths until our dinner was served. Having ordered one meal off of the children's menu, I began the time consuming process of dividing portions onto three small plates. By the time I had given each of the girls their dinner, my husband and grandmother had nearly finished their meals. Reflecting on the situation, I should have asked Grandma to divide up their food so that she would not have had idle time at the end of her meal to notice the growing landfill underneath our table.

Fine dining memories flashed before her at that moment. So much for the dignified dining experiences of her travels. Quietly, she excused herself and walked away. Was she that offended that she would abandon us at the restaurant?

This proved not to be the case. Smiling, Grandma returned to the table with a damp washcloth and portable sweeper. Silently, she wiped sticky fingers and smudged faces. The cellophane wrapper pile quickly disappeared into her handbag and with an indiscreet swipe of the sweeper, she erased any evidence on the floor that could be traced to our family.

Quite stunned by how quickly and effectively Grandma had tidied up the girls and their surroundings, we departed the restaurant. Nervously spewing apologies to Grandma for the
"chaotic dinnertime and its aftermath", Grandma stopped me.

Her simplistic explanation silenced all my qualms about future dining out experiences with our children. She began, "As parents, you must remember that no matter who is dining next to you in a restaurant, be it a celebrity or the President of the United States, that he was a baby and a toddler at one point in his life." She continued, " Just like your little girls, I'm certain most of those people in that restaurant wrecked havoc at restaurants just like we witnessed tonight."

I smiled in relief to Grandma's common sense advice and knew that going out to dinner would be an easier and more relaxed task from that day forth.

Author's Note: The three small destructors of dining matured into fine young ladies, all capable of eating with utensils.

The "Most Funnest" Place

Reflections from my service at an inner-city program for children and teenagers.

One evening as I shared dinner with a table of rambunctious children at the Community Center, a six-year old little girl told me: "This is the most funnest place I've ever been!" In a world filled with amusement parks and video games and entertainment of every kind imaginable, I was struck by the simplicity of what was considered "fun" to this child. And once again, the importance of the work being done at the Center was driven home in my heart.

Fun does abound at the Community Center. Heartache and hopelessness do frequent the doorways as well, yet in the midst of those emotions, we traveled to the planetarium, looked through a telescope, tried out scuba diving, visited with a ferret, began 4-H, kicked our way through soccer clinic, and danced with our new jazz and ballet instructor. Wow! That does sound fun, doesn't it? On top of all of this "fun", the children are physically fed through the Grumbling Tummies' Cafe' that serves thousands of free meals each year. Spiritual food is offered through nightly Chapel services and Bible studies.

Each day I ask myself what we can offer the children and families of this impoverished neighborhood. Most of them have lives that are difficult and complicated. Through their young eyes, it must be a challenge to discover how to have fun and happiness in the midst of a neighborhood replete with poverty, single-parent households, drugs and alcohol abuse, and crime.

Christ commanded us to, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:10-20). Just as He commanded, the Community Center's staff is listening and being obedient servants. God could foresee the lives of these children and He knew that these tremendous needs would exist in this inner-city neighborhood. In His infinite wisdom, He assembled resources and servants to operate this program. He has called and equipped us to be His hands and His mouth to these hurting children.

This Scripture quoted from Matthew contains the vital reminder that "He is with us always". This promise reminds us that He will provide the strength, faith, and protection that we need to serve here. Apart from God, we labor in vain.

A Prayer for Today: July 27, 2008

My Precious Lord,We are forever grateful for the mercy and forgiveness you have extended to us. You alone have rescued us over and over from ourselves. Your patience has been amazing - never giving up on us, even when we fail You.

I praise you God for being willing to sacrifice your own Son for us. My human mind cannot fathom that type of love and passion for a lost world. Time after time, You alone have heard our prayers and seen our tears and rescued us. You have answered prayers too numerous to list.

And for those prayers, we have been tempted to believe that were not answered, we know eternity will reveal how You alone were working in the midst of those situations, as well. We could not have made it through the trials and tribulations of this life without YOU. You alone have been our Peace, our Hope, our Sustainer, our Healer, our Everything.

In the dark of night, in the loneliness of the hospital room, in the midst of pain too difficult to describe, You have stood guard and comforted and counseled and consoled us. Your Word has been our constant companion.

We are regretful for the days we never looked at your Word to seek its power and teachings. How our lives could have been different if we had learned more of you and obeyed more of Your Teachings. Help us to be more faithful to You and Your Word. We want to absorb more and more of your Word – it is life to those who find it and health to all their flesh. You alone know the pain and suffering in each broken body represented on this forum. And I am convinced that many of us would have died long ago had it not been for Your constant, abiding presence and healings that you have granted to so many of us.

Father, we long to be well. Strengthen us and help us to feel better. Show us what you want each of us to do on earth. Remove anything that we may want to do, and in its place, plant what YOU want us to achieve with our lives. We want the privilege to be of eternal value to your Kingdom. We want a Kingdom-assignment or position that is God-granted and Spirit-supervised.

Lord, I will write, but I need for You to breathe words into my flesh, otherwise, the words will be empty and void. Your Words never return void and I seek that type of power and presentation with the words I write and pray. You know how I long to see my family saved and serving you. I long to see them overcome with the desire to love and serve you in these last days. I long for the Rapture where we can meet you in the sky as the trumpet sounds. No death or graves for us. Come Lord Jesus to meet us in the sky. I love you and praise you for all you do for us.In my Precious Savior’s Name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Six Weeks and Counting

We are fast approaching the arrival of our first grandchild. Preparations are under way! If my health permits, I will be his Nanny when his Mommy and Daddy return to work and to graduate school. And since he will be spending many days with his Grammy, we felt that we should have our own nursery at our home.

With our daughters all grown and raised, we have an abundance of vacated bedrooms, so there was plenty of real estate for the addition of the nursery. Grandpa and Grandma have been busy at work. The room has a Noah’s Ark theme and Grandpa did a great paint job with stripes that would make HGTV quite proud! He could be the next HGTV Design Star.

Today we went to purchase a crib and mattress for the nursery. Naturally, we had to pick up a “few” other items. We had to select a bathtub in the event the little man decided to have an ultimate mess while visiting. And with the bathtub purchase, we definitely needed to pick up baby soap, wipes, a comb and brush. It’s amazing at how much paraphernalia a baby requires.

Next we purchased a baby monitor. The only monitors we had when our daughters were young were called eyes and ears. Nowadays, everything from television monitors to movement monitors to monitors that detect the slightest whimper fill the aisles of the baby superstores. My husband felt we probably didn’t need the monitor because I will most likely sit in my rocking chair in the nursery and watch him sleep. He knows me pretty well after 25+ years.

Since I will pick up Little Man in the mornings, he will be traveling a lot with his Grammy. Given that infant car seats are rear facing, we decided I needed a mirror that mounts on the back window and reflects into my rear-view mirror so that I can watch our little man. One infant purchase demands another. Marketing geniuses have this baby shopping figured out. Parents (or doting grandparents) purchase a car seat. I am all for car seats. (After all, I am from the generation who stood in the center of the front seat as a toddler waiting to be catapulted out the front window when Mom hit the brakes.) Now, after the car seat is decided upon, there are headrests that fit inside the car seat to support the baby’s head. And once you buy the headrest for the car seat, there are soft, supports that wrap around the headrest straps so the baby’s face isn’t irritated. Then there are toys to fasten onto the car seat. Lastly, don’t forget window shades and the BABY ON BOARD sign while you are shopping.

How did babies ever survive before the advent of the baby superstore?

From Our Gardens

Food for Thought

"Tell me what you eat, and
I will tell you what you are.”

--Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Most famous French epicure and gastronome and often considered
the father of the low-carbohydrate diet

Live Well, Eat Well: The Antioxidant Connection

Below is an article I wrote for a medical nonprofit organization's electronic newsletter.

The medical research community and media have inundated the general public with positive reports regarding the antioxidant connection to health benefits. Research has confirmed that diets rich in foods and beverages such as red wines, dark chocolates, cocoa, and certain fruits have multiple health benefits.

Antioxidants, found in foods and beverages discussed later in this article, have the ability to act as “scavengers” by neutralizing destructive “free radicals” in the human body. Normally, the body’s defense system destroys the free radicals. However, when stress, medical conditions, pollution, or other conditions weaken the body’s capability to destroy the free radicals, damage to the body may occur. Cancer, heart disease, early aging, and other chronic disease may develop. Antioxidants may reduce the plaque that clogs arteries and can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Recently in Spain, researchers announced that cocoa contains more than 600 chemicals that may help to fight cancer, heart disease, rheumatism, stress, and protect the immune system.

Dr. Kris-Etherton of Penn State University believes that compounds found in cocoa also have the potential to keep arteries flexible and increase blood flow. He states, “My research shows that a diet containing about an ounce of chocolate a day increases good cholesterol and prevents bad cholesterol from oxidizing, a process that may lead to heart disease.” Consumers are urged to not overindulge in chocolate but to include it with a healthy diet including nuts and fruits.

Research has proven that the following foods and beverages will give you the most antioxidant bang for your buck!

BEVERAGES: Red Wines, Elderberry Juice, Prune Juice
FRUITS: Cranberries, Red Grapes, Apples, Melons, Nectarines, Oranges, White Grapes, and Strawberries


Phenol Antioxidant Quantity and Quality in Foods: Fruits (Vinson JA, Su X, Zubik L, Bose P)
Department of Chemistry, University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, USA)

Antioxidant Properties of Commercial Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Beverages (Lugasi A, Hovari J). National Institute of Food Hygiene and Nutrition, H-1097 Budapest, Gyali ut 3/1., Hungary)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Clinical Trials

Most cancer patients will be confronted with the decision to participate in a clinical trial or not. Clinical trials are vital to the advancement of medical sciences. Researchers recruit participants for their trials. Dosages for drugs are determined. Dose limiting toxicities are observed. Side effects and complications are determined.

However, as a patient who has participated in a clinical trial and who is considering whether or not to participate in another clinical trial, I would highly recommend considering several factors first before signing the consent form.

Most importantly, you need to be aware of the risks, benefits, and specific details of the treatment being proposed to you in the context of the clinical trial. Be certain to ask about all treatment options that are available to you. I always want to know what additional testing will be required of me in order to be a trial participant. Also, since I take many medications, I want to know if the eligibility criteria for the clinical trial will allow for me to continue on current medications and supplements.

It is worth asking if you are allowed to speak to currently enrolled trial participants. If that option is not available to you, most all trials have a clinical research nurse to whom you can direct your specific concerns and questions about the research associated with the clinical trial.

Be certain that you know how your insurance company will respond to your participation in a clinical trial. While several states have passed legislature that requires insurance companies to pay for routine care associated with participation in a clinical trial, many states remain without such laws. Visit this website to learn more about your state's laws regarding insurance and clinical trials:

Most participants will want to know what phase of research does the trial represent? My personality tends to be conservative by nature. A Phase IV would be more comfortable than a Phase I trial for me to consider. Clinical trials are often described by "phase". According to the NCI, phases of clinical trials are:

Phase I trials: These first studies in people evaluate how a new drug should be given (by mouth, injected into the blood, or injected into the muscle), how often, and what dose is safe. A phase I trial usually enrolls only a small number of patients, sometimes as few as a dozen.

Phase II trials: A phase II trial continues to test the safety of the drug, and begins to evaluate how well the new drug works. Phase II studies usually focus on a particular type of cancer.

Phase III trials: These studies test a new drug, a new combination of drugs, or a new surgical procedure in comparison to the current standard. A participant will usually be assigned to the standard group or the new group at random (called randomization). Phase III trials often enroll large numbers of people and may be conducted at many doctors' offices, clinics, and cancer centers nationwide.

In addition, after a treatment has been approved and is being marketed, the drug's maker may study it further in a phase IV trial. The purpose of phase IV trials is to evaluate the side effects, risks, and benefits of a drug over a longer period of time and in a larger number of people than in phase III clinical trials. Thousands of people are involved in a phase IV trial.

Many financial concerns and questions must be answered for clinical trial participants. Will you be compensated for your participation? Many clinical trial sponsors do not reimburse participants for their participation, time, travel, and other costs. Some clinical trial sponsors have small reimbursements available for participants. These are all questions and concerns most participants need to consider (unless you are very wealthy and money is not an issue).

I had the opportunity to be a clinical trial participant at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of our nation's premier sponsors of medical research. At the NCI, after I made my first trip and enrolled in the clinical trial, my travel expenses were covered by the NIH. Airfare, a food per diam allowance, lodging, and the cost of ALL care provided at the NCI were free of charge. I must admit the NIH is one of the most exceptional uses of government funds that I have ever witnessed.

If your personal physician has not recommended a specific clinical trial, yet you are interested in this approach to treatment, you might wonder how to locate clinical trials available to you? The NCI's website, is an exceptional resource for locating clinical trials for cancer patients. On their search engine you can specify if you want information on trials only at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, or if you want to review clinical trials at other facilities around the country.

From a patient's perspective, I will offer some reflections about my participation in a clinical trial. Although my travel expenses were paid for by the clinical trial center, I quickly learned that the amount of travel involved was tiring. Being away from my family came with a price as well. I became very ill at one point while enrolled in the clinical trial. I was almost 700 miles from my family and ended up in an Intensive Care Unit. At that moment in time, all I wanted was to have my family nearby.

Obviously, when enrolled in most clinical trials, as a participant, you will be separated from your familiar medical team. Participants need to be willing to adjust and adapt to new people, new environments, and new approaches to their care and treatment. Sometimes the care in a clinical trial tends to be a bit impersonal. On the other hand, some research centers are quite skilled at coordinating the many details of complicated cases in a personable fashion.

There is a deep sense of personal satisfaction knowing that you have done something to contribute to finding a cure or a better treatment for the disease you are battling. This was one of my greatest revelations regarding clinical trial participation. I have also donated tissue, blood, and DNA for research purposes. By participating, to whatever degree, in medical research, most patients will discover that they are empowered and energized by doing their part for science.

On Genesis

The opening book of the Holy Bible provides us with a detailed account of the creation of everything, including man and woman. It is truly a book of beginnings. The creation account is followed by the destructive first sin and the fall of man from perfect communion with a Holy God. Man's sinfulness continues to separate him from God and increases in wickedness. God then destroys the earth and its inhabitants with the Flood.

In eleven chapters, God lays the groundwork for the redemptive work of Christ that will be required to save fallen man. This plan of redemption will intertwine itself throughout the remaining books of the Bible. Beginning with Chapter 12, we see God at work to call a chosen people, the Hebrew nation, beginning with Abram. He call this nation to be the instrument that He would use to bring Jesus Christ into the world to save man and to provide hope of forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Genesis continues with accounts of the lives of Abram's descendants and their shortcomings as individuals and as a nation, despite the covenant call on their lives. Through it all, God remains faithful to them.

Adam and Eve appear as the first created man and woman. Their named children were Cain, Abel, and Seth. Cain initiates the first act of murder against his brother Abel.

Noah remained a righteous and blameless man who walked with God in a wicked world. God called him to construct an ark in which he, his wife, and sons and daughters-in-law, could reside during the flood. Animals were spared as well. Through the preservation of Shem during the flood, the bloodline of Christ was preserved.

Through the lineage of Shem, Abram was born to Terah. God personally called Abram to "birth" the Hebrew nation -- a "great nation" -- from which Christ would be born as Deliverer for a lost and dying world. Abraham's descendants included Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Genesis concludes with Joseph's death in Egypt. God had placed the Hebrew nation in Egypt to prosper and grown and be subjected to great oppression. The stage had been set for Moses, the delivered of the Israelites, to step front and center.

The book of Genesis is replete with beginnings. God's inspired Word records the beginnings of the earth, all plant and wildlife, mankind, language, the Hebrew nation, and many other firsts. We also witness God's unending faithfulness to keep His Word and promises along with His provision for man, despite his sinfulness. God's wrath and His grace are portrayed throughout this book.

Genesis Scriptures that have personal spiritual meaning and inspiration for me include:

"Abram believed the Lord, and He credited to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:6

"He said, 'If I have found favor in your eyes, my Lord, do not pass your servant by.'" Genesis 18:3

"Abraham answered, 'God Himself will provide the Lamb.'" Genesis 22:8

I am blessed by the numerous references in Genesis to our Lord and Savior. Jesus was a part of God's plan for redemption of fallen man from the very beginning. Genesis 3: 15 gives us confidence in our ability to defeat the enemy through Christ's blood. And Genesis 22:8 promises that God will provide that perfect sacrificial Lamb -- Jesus Christ.

Abraham's faith and willingness to follow the Lord's directions without question, blesses me. He willingly gave himself to the Lord and His service. I offer myself to Him, through faith, for forgiveness of my sins and to equip my life to be of service to Him. I want to live my life so that I will find favor in His eyes (Genesis 18:3) and so that He will walk hand-in-hand with me through my days on earth and into eternity.

To My Mom

This tribute to my Mother was published in a local newspaper on Mother's Day.

So many in our hurting world have never known the love or support of a mother. I can't imagine my life's journey without the loving, dedicated Mom who has always been by my side. God blessed me with a Mom who has always loved, supported, encouraged, and helped me. Today she is the recipient of my written bouquet of gratitude.

I have always known -- whether I lived nearby or across the country -- that my Mom was no more than a telephone call away. She is a selfless, dedicated, hard working mother who has always prioritized the needs of her family ahead of her own needs and desires.

When I was diagnosed with leukemia, our family was changed forever. And the love and support of my Mom that had always been a vital part of my life, became an even more vital aspect of my life. Suddenly, there were times as an adult that I was totally dependant upon others to care for me. While my husband and daughters have to work and go to school, my Mom is retired and is the rock and caregiver who sits tirelessly with me when I am at the hospital or receiving treatments. She encourages me on days when I don't feel like fighting this battle anymore. Her humorous antics bring laughter to our home and to the hospital room. She tends to the basic needs of my family, performing such tasks as cooking a meal for us or taking care of the laundry when our stairs look daunting to climb. Most importantly, she prays for me and never gives up on me winning this battle.

Have our lives been easy or void of trials and tribulations? No. Yet, in the midst of these trying times, I am most grateful for the gift of my mother that God has given to me. Words are but a simple measure of my love and appreciation that I express to my Mom through these words. My words will always be inadequate at expressing the depth and sincerity of my love for my Mom, yet I write them filled with emotion and gratitude.

My Grandparents

You are the gifts that God blessed me with-
An extra set of arms to hug me,
An extra set of hearts to love me.
An extra set of eyes to watch and warn me.

You are the gifts that God blessed me with-
You were there to help me, love me-
You were there to teach me, to train me-
You were there to help my parents to learn what
Being a Mom and Dad was all about.

You are the gifts God blessed me with-
You make me feel secure when I experience your love
You make me understand the value of family.
You have given me a rich heritage of values and
Relationships that will carry me through time.

To My Dad

Thanks for driving your old black truck so that I could always have
new school clothes and everything I needed each year…..

Thanks for polishing your worn work shoes so that I could have
new athletic shoes when I needed them…..

Thanks for taking the time to go outside to practice softball with
me after working hard all day at your job…..

Thanks for making a point to be home to eat dinner with us while I
grew up…..

Thanks for making all of the long drives to see us when we lived out of state…...

Thanks for making me laugh with hidden Easter eggs in my hospital room and
that magical way you always “popped” your neck…..

Thanks for being self-less with your time you spend with me in the hospital
(and for going to the Olive Garden for soup to keep me safe from eating too much hospital food!)….

Thanks for showing me the importance of honesty, hard work, and
human decency…..

Thanks for loving my Mom and staying married to her for over 40 years so
that my family was always secure and whole.

Thanks for your hard work through the years to provide for our
family. Enjoy your retirement — you deserve it!

Most of all, thanks for being my Dad. I am privileged to be your daughter.

Flowers in My Garden

Medical Update - OSU Lab Results

I received word from Ohio State University this evening. The deletion (17p) that the doctors were looking to see if I had developed, was NOT present. So that is a bit of good news. Presence of the 17p deletion indicates that most treatments will no longer be effective against the leukemia. Other labs remained virtually unchanged. I remain uncertain as how to proceed. I will wait for divine inspiration as for the best path of action.


In a society where most everyone is seeking bigger and better “everything”, contentment is a character trait often lacking. I pray my children, grandchildren, and I will excel in contentment. In my life, few other traits have given me as much peace as learning to be truly content. As a nation, we are fortunately blessed with more than most of the world’s residents. Yet, depression and suicide rates escalate. For many, never learning the art of being content, no matter life’s circumstances, drives them to unending discouragement and disappointment.

One might ask, “What exactly does it mean to be content?” Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary defines contentment as, “a state of mind in which ones’ desires are confined to his lot whatever it may be…” Contentment truly is a state of mind for each of us. We CHOOSE whether or not we want to be happy and content with the deck of cards we are dealt called life. Conversely, we also can choose to be miserable and melancholic with the exact same life circumstances. It’s our choice!

Easton’s commentary continues to expound on contentment with these thoughts: “Contentment arises from the inward disposition, and is the offspring of humility, and of the greatness of the divine promises and our own unworthiness.” Something deep within our souls and spirits decides if we are going to select the path of contentment or if we are going to be miserably unhappy and ungrateful for what we have been given, what we have achieved, and what comprises our lives.

Humility plays an integral role in achieving contentment. If one is haughty and never humble in actions and words, contentment is bound to be a far-reaching goal. If one seeks a better home or car than his neighbors. Or if wearing name-brand clothes dominates one’s thoughts, contentment is going to be difficult to attain. For just as soon as one believes he has a better car than his neighbor, the neighbor will purchase an even better vehicle. Pride and a covetous attitude often displace contentment.

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Paul suffered unlike most people can imagine. Yet, he had learned and mastered the art of being content no matter the circumstances in his life. Circumstances are often fleeting, so to allow circumstances to deprive you of contentment is foolishness. In life’s most difficult circumstances and challenges, there is the capability to embrace contentment and joy. Consider this challenge today as it could change your life forever: learn to be content no matter what your circumstances are in this life.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Know That I Am Your God

Though the earth's crust shakes and trembles;
Though the waters flow and flood;
Though the winds blow with force and fury;
Though the storms rage and roar,
Be still and know that I am Your God.

Though terrorists plot and practice;
Though wars are waged and warranted;
Though criminals rob and rape;
Though hunger hurts and harms;
Be still and know that I am Your God.

Though fuel costs soar and food costs more;
Though cancer ravages and raids bodies;
Though families divide and divorce;
Though heartache invades your life;
Be still and know that I am Your God.

Hospitals: Places of Healing, Places of Harm

Having frequented hospitals for many years of my life, my eyes have been opened wide to the risks associated with a hospitalization. I feel it to be imperative for others to know the mistakes, risks, and errors that can accompany a hospital stay. When admitted to a hospital, every patient must make the decision to either advocate for himself or to appoint a loved one to serve as his advocate. For some people, intimidation and fear are factors difficult to overcome when confronting those providing medical services. After all, for years, patients rarely, if ever, questioned anything that their doctors ordered.

Today's patient is better informed and educated about his disease. The Internet has made available to patients a worldwide medical library of resources. One of the best resources to educate yourself quickly about a disease or condition is The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Access this resource at . If I had not educated myself completely about leukemia, infection risks, drug risks and reactions, and immunosuppression, I doubt I would be alive today. Always remember that you alone have more vested interested in your recovery than anyone else on earth. You have the most to lose -- your life. There are many wonderful, dedicated health professionals. I happen to be the benefactor of one such physician's care and service. Unfortunately, I have also seen the flip side to this type of physician. And soon after encountering poor medical directives and bedside manner at the hand of various physicians, I became aware that I could fire a physician just as I would fire a broker, lawyer, mechanic, or plumber who failed to provide me with exceptional service. For many patients, they never consider it to be their right to engage the services of another physician if their current doctor is failing to provide competent care.

Hospitals heal and hospitals kill. According to an article in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) hospital errors are the third leading cause of death in the US. On average, 225,000 people per year are killed from hospital errors. These deaths are due to unnecessary surgery, medication errors, other errors, hospital acquired infections, and negative effects from medications. I have personally experienced many of these very dangers.

I have had nearly ten medication errors during my hospital stays. I have had medications sent from hospital pharmacies with one drug name typed on the label and the pharmaceutical company's label on the reverse side with another drug name. I have had a nurse mix two drugs (not compatible) in one syringe and when I told her that they were incompatible, she replied that it was "always given that way" and jabbed the needle in my arm. That is considered assault and battery by a nurse. I have had an IV drug that I had experienced a past reaction to, nearly given to me again. Only my cautious review of drugs with the medical personnel noted that the color was off on the drug and it was then that we realized it was the wrong drug. Every patient should question the administration of every drug in a hospital. Who prescribed this? What is the name of the drug? Why am I being given this drug? Personally verify the label on your medications contain your name.

Many of the drugs given to save my life have nearly taken my life. Obviously, anaphylactic drug reactions are not the fault of the hospital, however, these reactions have proven to me over and over that drugs come with substantial risks. My rule of thumb is that I truly must not be able to recover without the drug before I will consent to starting a new medicine. Patients should consult websites such as to inform themselves about possible drug interactions, side effects, and other contraindications. Those receiving medications should always consider consulting websites such as to be certain that their drugs are compatible with one another.

Hospital acquired infections have been a tremendous risk and danger to me and to millions of others Americans. Superbugs such as MRSA have demanded attention from hospital personnel. I was admitted to the hospital to receive a treatment to boost my immune system and when I returned home, I had acquired a serious case of c.difficile at the hospital. This can be life-threatening to someone with a compromised immune system.

When hospital staff does not adhere to strict hand washing, hand sanitizing and other infection preventing protocols, their patients suffer. Refuse to allow any medical personnel to touch you until they wash their hands in front of you. I decline housekeeping services when hospitalized. Serious infections have been shown to thrive in the mop water in hospitals. Germs are mopped up in one room and unless the water is changed between every patient (highly doubtful), these germs are being brought into your rooms. I have been admitted to a room with the last patient's IV bags (with his name label still attached) and bloody gloves remaining in the trash can. Do not assume your room is thoroughly cleaned before you are admitted. My husband takes wipes effective against superbugs such as MRSA and wipes down my hospital bed rails, call button, telephone, remote control, bathroom fixtures, door knobs, and any other fixture I am likely to touch.

Hospitals do heal. Hospitals do harm. It is up to the individual and his family to become outspoken, educated, informed users of hospital services. Your life or the life of your loved one might depend upon that knowledge!

Heartfelt Worship

Praise and worship. We hear this phrase frequently, yet it's easy to miss what God really means for us to experience during praise and worship. Praise, the way man expresses his joy to the Living God for who He is and what He does, was a lifestyle for the early church. Experiencing rapid growth after Pentecost, the daily gatherings of the early church focused on prayer, instruction from the Word of God, and praising God.

Present-day believers seeking a praise-filled walk with the Lord will culivate a deep devotion for God; grow in faithful obedience; and will reap a constant God-given joy. Try it! Open, heart-felt praise to our Lord and Savior will warm your heart with the Holy Spirit's fire.

Worship is man's reverent devotion and allegiance to God. Yet, worshipping the Lord is not to be an hourly experience on Sunday mornings, but an ongoing, personal state of devotion to the Lord. As a sacrificial act of worship, God expects us to be holy and pleasing to Him. We worship Him not only on our knees, but also with the lives we live daily.

Man was created to live and breathe in an atmosphere of praise-filled worship to his Creator. Let us be obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit as we enter into praise and worship.

The Battle is The Lord's

In a dream, the Lord showed me that my battle against leukemia was no more difficult than the battle that David, the shepherd boy, fought and won against the giant Goliath. I wrote this in 1999. Truly, He has allowed me to emerge victorious over many battles against this giant called leukemia.

Leukemia appears big, frightening, dangerous, and terrifying. In contrast, at this time, I appear weak and small. Leukemia taunts and teases me. It tests and challenges to take my life. Leukemia has no right to threaten me because that defies the promises for healing from the Living God. Leukemia knows that I will fight and WHEN I win, I will overcome and the leukemia will flee.

I will not lose heart on account of this disease. Your servant will go and fight it. Thus, the leukemia will detest me. The world and the reports tell me I will not be able to go against leukemia and fight because I am only human. But the world and man don't realize that the Lord will deliver me from the hand of leukemia. I will come against the disease in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel. The Lord will give me reign over the disease and will strike it down. Then the whole world will know that there is a God. The battle is the Lord's and He will give me victory.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reflections from the Inner-City

I served as the Program Director at an inner-city ministry. The years spent there changed my life forever.

Most cities sprawl and crawl to the suburbs leaving inner-city neighborhoods that most would like to ignore and avoid. Prostitutes solicit on corners. Neighborhoods die and decay. Drug dealers and criminals dominate the streets. Children and teenagers struggle to survive life in these darkened surroundings. Such was the description of the inner-city neighborhood in which God placed me to serve during this cancer battle. In man’s eyes, it seemed like the most unlikely task that I should be called to, but as we well know, God’s ways are not our ways.

I spent nearly three years striving to help meet the spiritual, physical, educational, and social needs of children, teenagers, and their families. Their needs were great. Their families were crushed and desperate. They were hungry and dirty and sometimes homeless. Knowing the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father who had so often answered my personal prayers for healing and provision, I confidently knew that He would do no less for these beloved children.

I sat to work attempting to meet basic needs of life – food, clothing, safe after-school care, tutoring, and most importantly, a daily Chapel time. I have experienced God’s powerful presence at many churches, at large Christian conferences with thousands of believers united in prayer and praise, yet some of the most powerful manifestations of the Lord, I witnessed in that tiny, cramped, inner-city Chapel where many children gathered who had never been introduced to their Loving Father.

Most did not even know the love of their earthly fathers. Single mothers raised most of these children and teenagers. Children boldly confessed their problems and I would drive home many night with tears stinging my eyes at the thought of what life situations were being imprinted on the tablets of these children’s hearts. Only with the knowledge of a loving, compassionate, faithful God was I able to return, day after day, to be His hands and mouth to this chapel of the lost, the hungry, and the frightened.

As they learned more about Him, the level of intimacy in their praises increased. My best friend came to chapel one evening and witnessed the heartfelt praises of these children as they closed their eyes to the hurt and heartache of their lives and lifted hands to a God who was gathering in our midst. She wept.

My body was so tired and in pain. I pushed on, having to often repeat, “When I am weak, He is strong,” to just make it through the day. Somedays, I would have chemotherapy in the morning and then drive straight to the ministry. We had services and programs on three floors of our facility. God literally carried me up and down those steps on so many days. I knew beyond a shadown of a doubt that He alone would equip me – afterall, He had called me to that task and placed me in the midst of a field in need of planting and harvesting. It’s all about reminding ourselves as His servants, that it is not about us – it is not about our talent or lack of talent; it’s not about what we think we want or need to do, but what He has ordained for us to do on this earth.

For most of us as His servants, we will have to be totally focused on Him and relying on the guidance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to complete our tasks. They might not always be easy or in our comfort zone, but by stepping into God’s plan and ignoring our own personal plans and desires, He will always bring success to our human efforts.

The Devoted Mate

I have watched many other cancer patients I have encountered be deserted by their spouses. The stress and burdens of a disease like cancer simply destroyed lives and marriages. My husband of over 25 years has stayed committed and devoted to caring for me. I framed this and gave it to him as a Christmas gift.

The Devoted Mate
“What therefore God hath joined together,
let not man put asunder.” Mark 10:9

I once noticed a beautiful pair of swans swimming leisurely and contentedly on a pond. Soon the male gander swan ascended skyward, circling round and round, honking earnestly, and glancing down at his mate, hoping his dream would come true.

A farmer told me that the female swan was injured and could not fly. The injury healed but left her handicapped. Her spouse left her side daily to fly overhead, looking back and forth, hoping she would still one day join him in flight. The gander’s desire increased when winter approached.

“Oh, if only she could join me, and we could fly to a warmer climate for the winter as other couples do,” he seemed to say. But knowing that she too longed to be a normal spouse, he would descend again to resume his role as “husband” and to remain a faithful companion for life. Though disappointed, he would stay with her, sacrificing his own delights, and enduring the cold winters. He never considered deserting her.

Many humans, married couples, reflect back when life together was in some ways more complete and fulfilling. The changes may have come from aging, an accident, or from sickness. Many have deserted their spouses because of selfishness. Isn’t it absurd that people would be less devoted and committed to each other than a pair of feathered fowl?

Thank you for years of marriage and devotion.

Laughter from a Mother's Journal

I recently discovered wrinkled pages of a journal I had kept while our daughters were young.

Entry: July 1986

S-Fights bedtime. Drags her blanket and Kitty Kat "suitcase" (also known as a pillowcase) around behind her. She tells everyone, her name is Sissy or Poot McGoot. She loves her chocolate milk. She does the boogey-woogey, a frantic dance in front of the glass fireplace screen, where she watches her reflection. Her favorite color this month is yellow. She loves to watch Sesame Street. She puts on a "Happy Face" (a very BIG smile) when commanded to do so. She tells us that "At At" is coming to visit (we are assuming this is an imaginary friend). :-)

M-Tells everyone her name is Lil Mis. She blames everything that goes wrong or causes trouble on her sister Sissy. Loves to run around saying, "Yelp! Yelp!" (Just like Ernie on Sesame Street). We call her Safety Sam as she makes everyone put on their seatbelts before the car leaves the driveway. She also verifies that everyone's doors are locked. Some mornings when she doesn't want to get up, she tells us she is just too chubby to crawl out of the bed. :-) She keeps us laughing with her jokes and antics.

K-Tells everyone her name is Ceeee. She loves her Snuggle Bunny. She is still waking up at night (Mom and Dad are very tired). She loves to dance and usually does whatever she is told. She loves to suck her "dumb dumb" (also known as a thumb). She loves to eat and even eats her big sisters' leftovers. Her favorite thing to do is to go wake up her "big sisters" in the morning. She adores them.

Entry: December 1986

S-Loves everything about Christmas. Says she wants 3 Cabbage Patch dolls from Santa. Just started wearing "big girl pants" to bed. She enjoys coloring and playing with her Play Dough. She watches "Lassie" on television and "Mr. Rogers". She calls Christmas wrapping paper, "HO HO Wallpaper" -- that makes perfect sense to her. She had tubes placed in her ears and she told us her doctor wore his pajamas at the hospital (we are assuming a reference to his scrubs).

M-She has alot of nicknames for herself -- Emma, Jane, Emma Bombs. She has become VERY dramatic. A true drama queen in the making. She is always fixing someone's hair. She likes to do whatever little sister K is doing. She likes to go to "school" (Mother's Morning Out at church). She has learned to get her own ice water out of the refrigerator door and likes to serve ice water to anyone and everyone. She is peddling well on her tricycle.

K-She has really grown and does she ever have some CURLY hair! Learning to go potty like a big girl. She thinks she is 3! Still sucking her "dumbie" (thumb) and holding onto Snugglie. She knows the names of her body parts, colors, and is pasting well. She is starting to pretend. She calls herself Curly Annie and asks her sisters to call her that. Says "nite nite" and blows kisses to all of us.

We Stand in Awe of You

In 2004, our family experienced a true miracle from God. This blog entry recounts what God did for our daughter.

We have been given a miracle by the loving, healing hands of our Father. As many of you know late in the summer our oldest daughter, who had just married her husband a few months earlier, began to have some medical trouble. She was born as a tiny 3 pound baby with a small hole in her heart. God has protected and sustained her for 20 years, never needing medication or surgery for that condition after her first year of life. Praises be to him.

Then suddenly she began having heart palpitations, fainting spells, shortness of breath, etc. She went to the doctor and several tests were performed. These tests were read locally and then sent to a larger medical center to be interpreted. In September we were told that the strain of this tiny hole had caused one heart valve to become damaged and it was leaking. This then caused damage to her lungs -- we were being told the pressure in her lungs was 65 and should have been under 15 -- the diagnosis was pulmonary hypertension. Life expectancy with this condition, according to some sources, was less than 5 years. You can imagine the shock and heartache our family felt.

Our beloved daughter and her husband had just begun their long life as family and those "reports of man" were so difficult to hear. It didn't take me long as a mother to know that once again we had to turn to the Father -- our only Hope in life's hopeless situations. We prayed and interceded and asked hundreds of other faithful prayer warriors to join us in prayer as she planned to visit another specialist.

As most of you know I was readmitted to ICU the very week she had to visit this specialist and that made all of this even more difficult as I laid there thinking about what our precious children were facing. Yet in the midst of it all we watched and marveled at the God-given strength and faith that our daughter maintained. She refused to drop out of school for the semester as she planned to graduate in December; she maintained her commitment to her fall internship; and continued to care for her family.

When asked how she felt, she would always tell me, "I am fine, Mom." She spoke faith and we believed in faith. According to Mark 11:23: "For assuredly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain (that diagnosis), 'Be removed and be cast into the sea', AND DOES NOT DOUBT IN HIS HEART, but BELIEVES THAT THOSE THINGS HE SAYS WILL BE DONE, he will have WHATEVER he asks. 'Therefore, I say to you WHATEVER things you ask when you pray, BELIEVE that you receive them and you WILL have them."

I laid in that ICU bed praying and interceding for my child during her appointment -- I prayed to a loving, Heavenly Father who created her in HIS image and who loves her far more than even her parents or husband love her. It was a long day but that deep abiding peace that only comes from the Comforter -- the Holy Spirit -- reigned in my heart and mind.

I called her cell phone several times for a report because I knew she couldn't call me in ICU. My Mom was in the room with me and finally I connected with her on her cell phone. I sat in that hospital room and listened as she told me that when they first saw the doctor, it was not good news. Then the doctor said she wanted to repeat all of the tests. This was completed and the doctor came to tell her -- SHE WAS FINE!

Documented by tests that were read at two different locations these were the diagnosis she had received 6 weeks earlie:--By Chest x-ray -- enlarged heart -- she was actually told that if she had not gotten to the doctor when she did that she was 2 weeks from being in heart failure--By EKG-Echo -- leaking tricuspid valve of the heart--By Echo Pressure check -- pulmonary hypertension of 65 (Normal being 15) -- this being a very serious life-threatening diagnosis.

This is the MIRACLE we received verified by the medical testing -- --her heart was of normal size--her heart valves are all perfect--her lungs are perfect--The high pulmonary pressure is normal.--The tiny hole with which she has had for 20 years was the same and unchanged.

In all my years of serving Christ I have never seen or been blessed to personally witness such a divine intervention of healing. I know God can do the same for any of us and it is our prayer that God will receive ALL GLORY AND PRAISE for this and that her healing will be a testimony and encouragement for others facing impossible health or life situations. God gave this victory -- He is able, willing, and quite capable of handling all of our dire life situations when we humble ourselves and seek His face.

To our family and friends: Thank you for being His intercessors on our daughter's behalf. So many of you have been agreeing in prayer with us and we all know WHERE TWO OR MORE AGREE-HE IS IN OUR MIDST.

We stand, we stand in awe of You, Lord.

Faces in a Railroad Station

I had this short story published in a collegiate literary magazine. It earned a Second Place award in The Indiana Collegiate Press Association competition.

As I began my trek to the old, weather beaten railroad station, I lugged my dirt covered bag behind. My train was not to depart until late evening, but I had begun my walk in the high noon sun to arrive on time. Oh, how thrilled Aunt Sarah would be when I arrived in New York City to spend the summer with her! Nevertheless, Aunt Sarah's soon-to-be-joy did little to ease the burning of my feet on the hot stones. Painful enough were the two-sizes-too-small shoes, without the holes which had opened on the left sole.

Several miles and two blisters later, I arrived at the Brookville Railroad Station. Dusty heat and barrels of noisy chatter and laughter burst through the door as I opened it. A wailing baby intensified his yell despite the warmth of his mother's cradling arms. Helplessness and fatigue besieged the young mother. I decided at that moment that I did not want any of those crying babies hanging around my neck.

I diverted my attention to a ruckus on the other side of the station. A giant of a man with brilliant red hair and a fuzzy beard bellowed at the top of his booming voice at a small bit of a man wearing glasses. From what I could perceive (without being an obvious snoop) the small man had carried off the burly fellow's baggage by mistake. I was thinking what a trivial thing to fight about when the fists began to fly along with a shattered pair of spectacles! My trip had not begun and I was in the midst of a mess already! The custodian at the station arrived to break up the scrimmage; beads of nervous perspiration trickled down his jaw as he approached the brawl. A gleam of fear was in his grey-blue eyes as he grabbed at the bulging arm of the big man. Surprisingly, the men ceased the disturbance as quickly as it had begun.

I sat down on the hard, splintered bench to wait and to listen for the arrival of my train. Seated nearby was an age-worn lady, weeping silently through all of the commotion. A picture of a spry-looking, white-haired man, she clutched in her hand. Her husband, I assumed, had passed away, leaving her to grieve. I scooted down the bench, being careful not to snag my best skirt. I placed my hands on the sobbing lady and she looked up at me. Wrinkles, deep crevices etched in her face, brightened as I shyly smiled at her. Her spectacles, dampened with grief-filled tears, slid down the bridge of her turned-up nose. She pulled out a lace tatted handkerchief, wiped her nose, and dried her eyes. I wondered and hoped that my young, life-filled face and touch had eased her suffering. She smiled.

Outside, the train station emptied as the people flowed out to board the arriving train. In such a short time, I had experienced both the anxious, hectic reaches of life and the quiet, unspoken word of death. As I boarded the train, I wondered if life was so simple and quick-changing that it could be experienced in such a short time. My thoughts on the matter closed as did the doors of the train. I had places to go, things to do; and I had learned that life is not terribly long.

An Open Letter to the Newly Diagnosed CLL Patient

It is unfortunate that you have been diagnosed with CLL. I was diagnosed nearly 12 years ago with CLL at the age of 33 – very unusual at that young age AND for a female. It has been a very long journey, however, I am blessed that I am still alive today. Many new developments, prognostic testing, and some alternative therapies are gaining momentum and I wish I had had access to them early on after my diagnosis. So I will share these thoughts with you as well as a listing of the most important online resources and CLL specialists in the world that you should access to educate yourself about this disease.

Early on, I made the decision (that I will never regret) to learn all that I could about the disease and to become the best health advocate for myself that I could become. I literally have file cabinets of journal articles relevant to CLL. I also encourage you not to be intimidated by the medical professionals. Just as we hire and fire plumbers, mechanics, and other professionals, we must realize that we can hire and fire physicians just as easily. You will discover that no one doctor will have all of the answers to the questions that you have (although I will direct you to some of the CLL experts in the world who come close to having most of the answers). If you can locate a family physician to coordinate your care, I would recommend doing so. My trusted family physician has provided some of the very best care I have ever received. She has treated infections, acted as a sounding board for me as I debate treatment decisions, orchestrated complementary therapies, and provided quality, general healthcare for me.

Please reflect on this information and then discuss questions about it with your physician. I am not a physician so I advise you to review this open letter with an open mind. If your oncologist does not support your wishes, replace him/her and move on! There are different levels of oncologists. I have traveled back and forth to Washington, DC to the National Cancer Institute. Drs. Gerald Marti and Bruce Cheson (now at Georgetown) both have provided excellent care for me. They taught me this vital fact: local, community oncologists are treating every type of cancer that is diagnosed. No human being could possibly remain abreast of all current research and findings for that many varieties of cancer. So on their behalf, the community oncologists are trying their best to stay abreast on all cancers and cancer treatments, but best isn’t good enough for those of us who are fighting for our lives. A step up to the slightly larger hospitals will yield only slightly better care. I went to an Indiana University Medical Center hematologist and after a huge battle with him at my first visit (as I knew he did not understand what he was recommending to me), I fired him and moved forward.

An excellent article from Mayo Clinic can be located at: -- it details information that YOU and YOUR ONCOLOGIST need to know about your care. The entire PDF version can be downloaded from this site.

Before making any vital treatment decision, you need to be consulting with the CLL doctors who focus and study this one form of leukemia. Dr. Terry Hamblin lives in England. My estimations and most of his colleagues rate him as one of the worldwide authorities on CLL. At times, his recommendations have literally saved my life. The easiest way to access his brilliance (and the support of over 2000 other CLL patients) is to join the online listserve CLL ACOR group. Once a member, you can search years of archived materials from patients. Dr. Hamblin has been a past listmember and volumes of his responses are on this online forum. Dr. Hamblin also has his own Blog with volumes of CLL information available. Visit .
TO subscribe to the above-mentioned online ACOR group go to:

If you decide to begin aggressive treatment, I will recommend centers of excellence for you – however, if you are going to “play” the watch and wait (and yes, sometimes worry) “game” that I’ve played for so many years, it is not always best to go to these centers. You most likely will be directed to quite aggressive treatments or treatments in early Clinical Trial phases at these centers, as that is what they are researching. Often times, these may not be a good hospital choice if you are trying to avoid aggressive treatment, but if you decide to pursue that route, you need to be at one of these hospitals.

Fortunately for me, Dr. John Byrd, another leading CLL specialist moved to Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. So that is the nearest hospital to me with a CLL specialist. I am currently consulting with Dr. Byrd. Dr. Kanti Rai is in New York; Dr. Kipps is in California; Dr. Furman is at Cornell in NYC; and Dr. Michael Keating is at MD Anderson in Houston. That is pretty much the roll call of CLL Centers of Excellence for treatment of CLL (I had previously mentioned Dr. Marti at the NCI and Dr. Bruce Cheson located at Georgetown).

The best CLL website you can access is . There is much material on this – all scientifically based, not just rhetoric and opinions. One of the first things that you should do outside of locating a physician who will work with you as a team (not a dictator) is to obtain the proper prognostic indicators. Simple lab tests have been developed since my diagnosis and they can give a fairly clear picture of the aggressiveness of your specific variety of CLL (don’t let anyone tell you that all CLL is the same – varieties of CLL vary immensely in life expectancy, treatment requirements, quality of life, etc.)

Prognostic Indicators Recommended to me at OSU were:

Flow Cytometry
Beta 2 Microglobin
Karyotype and FISH for CLL

Some centers of excellence recommend the ZAP-70 testing, however, this must be performed by a reputable laboratory. CD38 levels are also often tested.

My insurance has covered the costs of these tests, but you will need to determine your own coverage. Some of these tests are VERY expensive. Once you receive your results, (you must ask for a copy of every test, labwork, etc—it is your right to have this information), you can post it on the ACOR list and I am certain someone will give you an accurate interpretation of the findings.

While addressing this topic, I have set-up spreadsheets in Excel to track my labs. I would recommend this. If you are familiar with Excel, you can the track your WBC, RBC, HGB, and platelets. Keep accurate records of your lab reports, hospitalizations, treatment notes, etc. When I first visited OSU, I had to compile a 12 year disease history with the Physician's Assistant. This would have been impossible without the thorough record keeping I have done.

Don’t focus and obsess over one bad lab report. I remember early on after diagnosis, becoming petrified if I found out that my WBC jumped by 5000. I have had white counts of nearly 400,000 and lived to tell about it and as I reminisce about the early CLL years, I wish I had relaxed more and would have had someone to tell me to relax. Just watching the overall trends in your counts is what you need to do, not focusing on one set of labs.

A CLL “Primer of Information” can be located at: . This is excellent information.

Do you accurately know what stage your disease is currently at? You will be amazed at the oncologists who do not even know the accurate staging. According to the National Cancer Institute, these are the proper guidelines for determining the stage of CLL:

The following stages are used for chronic lymphocytic leukemia:
Stage 0
In stage 0 chronic lymphocytic leukemia, there are too many lymphocytes in the blood, but there are no other symptoms of leukemia. Stage 0 chronic lymphocytic leukemia is indolent (slow-growing).
Stage I
In stage I chronic lymphocytic leukemia, there are too many lymphocytes in the blood and the lymph nodes are larger than normal.
Stage II
In stage II chronic lymphocytic leukemia, there are too many lymphocytes in the blood, the liver or spleen is larger than normal, and the lymph nodes may be larger than normal.
Stage III
In stage III chronic lymphocytic leukemia, there are too many lymphocytes in the blood and there are too few red blood cells. The lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may be larger than normal.
Stage IV
In stage IV chronic lymphocytic leukemia, there are too many lymphocytes in the blood and too few platelets. The lymph nodes, liver, or spleen may be larger than normal and there may be too few red blood cells.

This site provides accurate, general information about this disease:

When I learned that there was no cure for CLL it became obvious to me, that I was going to go the very, very conservative route. EVERY treatment choice will bring side effects and don’t let anyone tell you differently. I’ve chosen to NEVER take a full-dose of ANY treatment that I have had. I take enough to decrease the tumor load and the symptom that have brought me to treatment, not striving for “remissions”. My philosophy has proven to be pretty successful for me. BUT THIS IS A DECISION ONLY YOU WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE FOR YOURSELF WITH YOUR OWN PHYSICIANS. NO ONE – spouse, parent, child, or doctor can tell you what you feel in your heart and soul that you should do. Your results from prognostic indicators will play a critical role in the treatment path you select.

For some, never striving for remission is too difficult emotionally. Granted, the natural instinct when told that we have cancer, is I HAVE TO ERADICATE THIS MONSTER! CLL plays by some different rules. Our daughters were all under the age of 14 when I was diagnosed, so that kept me from playing with the more aggressive therapies, I believe. I figured if I could mentally handle the disease living in my body and treat it more like a chronic disease such as diabetes, etc., that I would go that route and hope and pray that I would live to raise them! But that is not always an achievable plan.

Knowing your prognostics will give you more confidence in making your decisions. My prognostics are fairly good although I’ve had a pretty aggressive disease course (very enlarged spleen, transfusions, very high WBC, etc.) I have taken Fludarabine and Rituxan as my conventional treatment options.

I have done numerous alternative therapies also. The main one of those I’d like to mention is the use of green tea extract to slow the growth of CLL. I wish this finding was available when I was diagnosed, as I don’t believe my disease would be as advanced had I known this. I began researching the use of green tea extract and was amazed at some of the findings of how it could kill CLL cells. I brought my articles to my family physician and she agreed it was worth a try. Next I researched the brands that offered the purest form of this and determined that TEAVIGO (made by Pure Encapsulations) seemed to fit that bill. Amazingly, three months after I began my own personal clinical trial with TEAVIGO, Mayo Clinic began an actual clinical trial (still underway) using green tea extract and CLL patients. . It appears that it has slowed the progression of my CLL to some degree. The Pure Encapsulation Brands can only be ordered through a physician. Also, simply drinking green tea has been proven to be good for our immune systems and possibly for the CLL. I try to avoid caffeine however, you will get some of it in the capsules and some green tea products.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with information. I’ve just tried to give you the most important facts that I’ve learned during these 12 years. I hope something in this open letter is helpful to you. Again, only YOU can make YOUR decisions and you need to locate a doctor who will support YOU.

Fortunately for me, many of the decisions that I have made, were influenced by other CLL patients and their experiences. I am most grateful for these CLL mentors who have helped me and, in turn, I strive to help newly diagnosed patients in the same manner.

Keeping a positive attitude combined with a lot of faith has helped me through this time. Take excellent care of yourself – adequate sleep, diet, exercise, etc. All of that helps to support your immune system, which begins to take a harsh hit after years of the disease (infections pose the biggest threat to my life in most instances and have caused most all of my hospitalizations).

Fight the good fight. Educate yourself. Stay focused and positive. Find excellent physicians to guide you on this journey.