Chapter three: Oh, ye of little faith!

The doctor said, “I can’t believe it but your lymph nodes are already smaller.. reduced one-half their size.  I just don’t understand it.”

Mother received her first chemo treatment on Dec. 24th.   Not a fun Christmas present.   A couple of weeks after her treatment she became very sick and admitted to the hospital again.

The doctor didn’t understand why my mother was so sick.  They did a CAT scan to see what was going on in her body.  The scan revealed a hiatal hyernia which was probably caused from the vomiting she experienced after chemo treatment. They also noticed that the inoperable massive tumor, wrapped around her intestinal organs, were gone-vanished and the lymph nodes by her kidneys reduced in size.  (Mother’s words:  I asked Dr. Rhinehart if one chemo treatment would do this to me and he shook his head “No”.  I kept saying, “I just can’t believe that!”.  I.H. kept saying, “Believe it, Mary!  That is what we have been praying for!”)

God had been working the miracle all along.  My faith in God was strengthened through this family crisis.  I’ve learned never to doubt God’s assurances…His timing is perfect and all we need to do is trust Him completely.  Yes, oh, ye of little faith… why was I a doubting Thomas rather than a believing Thomas…. perhaps it was because I hadn’t spent enough time with God to know it was His voice that gave me the assurance mother would be ok.  That is why it is so important to talk to God and listen.  He talks to us in different ways… as you spend more time alone with God and listening, you will begin to know His voice.  Just like recognizing a friend’s voice when you hear their voice on the phone… you don’t have to ask who is calling because you recognize their voice.  The reason you know their voice is that you have spent time with them… that is way it is with God.  The more you spend time with Him the easier it will become to recognize His voice speaking to you.

Our mother’s story didn’t end here…. She was 68 years old when diagnosed with cancer…..she was given three months to live…tops.  She lived another 23 years to the honorable age of 91. She was a woman of faith and a very humble woman.  I wish you could have all known her.

So I ask you… when was the last time you talked to God and  listened for Him to speak to you.  Would you recognize His voice?

Thank you for reading a shortened version of our Mother’s cancer story.

Blessings, Marilyn

Chapter Two: His timing…not ours – His way… not ours!

Monday, December 1, 1980….my daughter, Mary who was then three years old, and I traveled from Chicago area to Indiana.  I planned to be with my parents and other family members on surgery day.  My dear friend, Connie, babysit for Mary so I could drive my parents to the hospital, which was 30 minutes away.  The  pastor came by the house to pray for Mother’s  healing and to anoint her with oil before we headed off to the hospital.    

I remember the trip to the hospital well.  Although my parents had talked about mother possibly having cancer between themselves, there was silence in the car and it seemed more like a three-hour drive than  30 minutes.   My heart was in my throat thinking of what might be ahead for my mother and father.   I reasoned with the Lord that I was to young to lose my mother. 

Surgery time approached and we kissed mother and prayed for her.  We waited to hear the doctor’s diagnosis after surgery.  He told us it would take three plus hours to do the surgery…however, about 1 1/2 hours later, we received notice that mother was out of surgery and in the recuperating room and that the doctor would speak to us shortly.  The lump in my throat grew larger – we all knew that the shortened time in surgery might mean problems.   We waited…finally the doctor walked in the private waiting room.  The doctor slowly described exactly what he had found.  Mom had enlarged lymph nodes and tumors which wrapped around her colon, like a sheet, and it was impossible for him to remove them.  He told us they wouldn’t have the pathology report for three days.  Tears welled up in my eyes as the doctor shook his head and said “Let’s wait and see what the report tells us.”  They had to close her up and leave the tumors inside.   The doctor removed the ovaries and many smaller tumors but couldn’t remove the larger ones.    My heart sank…everybody was upset… and I was in denial.  My father said, “Well, it doesn’t sound good.”  We all had tears.   Our pastor led us in prayer.  

At this point, I couldn’t understand the assurance I had received from God that mom would be ok…maybe it meant she was going to heaven rather than being healed physically.  I knew she was ready to go to heaven, but I wasn’t ready to let her go.   My mother didn’t remember much for the next couple days except that she felt a warm feeling all over her body.

Three days passed.   I was sitting in the waiting room reading and as I looked up –  the doctor walked out of the elevator… I knew he had come to tell us the results of  the tests.  Dad was in mom’s room at the time.  The doctor walked over to me and told me in medical terms that mother had lymphoma blah blah blah… I said you mean “She has cancer?”  He said, “Yes.” They would treat the cancer with chemotherapy but if that did not put the cancer into rapid remission–these tumors might press on her vital organs and giver her serious problems etc…….I was in shock and could hardly get past the word Cancer.  I controlled my feeling of desperation as my heart pounded so hard as if it was going to  burst…. I had to get out of there.  The doctor proceeded to my mother’s room to let her and dad know the results of the test.  

I needed to find the hospital chapel… I got on the elevator quickly and I broke down in heavy crying  and moaning….this couldn’t be real.  My mother wasn’t even sick…how could she have cancer.  After all God had given me the assurance that she would be ok.  I reached the chapel and prayed like never before…crying my eyes out…there I gave all my fears to God.   After I regained my composure, I called my sister and then went to see my mother.  I’ve never felt such helplessness in my entire life.

At church that Wed. evening during Prayer Meeting, the pastor told the congregation about my mother’s prognosis…that she was given at the most….three months to live.  At the close of the service one of the church members stood and said, “Pastor, if we believe what we say we do, why don’t we pray for Mary’s healing?”  So they gathered at the altar to pray.   They had not prayed like that in years.  Meantime, my father I.H., was home on his knees, praying as only he could pray.  He interceded for my mother.  He told my mother later, “You may think I am crazy, but I prayed through for you.  God spoke to me.  He did not say if you were to live or die, but He did say “It’s going to all right.”   This was the same assurance I had been given a month before her surgery. 

The thee days that followed seemed long.  At my parents home I saw a coffee mug that had this saying, “EXPECT A MIRACLE!” I filled it with candy (for the nurses) and took it my mother.  I set it down in front of her and said, “See what this says?  Believe it!”  Mom said, “I do!”.   Although I didn’t understand God’s timing… I still had faith that God would do as he had assured me and my father.  It was His timing not ours and His way not ours. 

Reflection:   Has God  assured you about something?  Did the answer come right away…or did you have to wait?  Have you learned that …. It is His timing…not ours – His way….not ours? 

Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct your path.

Stay tuned for Chapter three…     Blessings,  Marilyn

Houston, we have a problem!

There is nothing wrong with drinking if done in moderation.  My grandfather was a BIG time alcoholic.  I remember the stories mom told me about her dad being inebriated…pretty sad.  I think my grandmother must have been a saint.   My grandfather would  get intoxicated at the tavern and walk home…many times my parents would receive a call that “Ike”, my grandfather’s nick name,  was laying along a roadside ditch near his home.  My dad and mom would go pick him up and take him home.  I don’t know when or why he became an alcoholic…but I suspect somewhere in his family history somebody was an alcoholic, so perhaps he had a genetic tendency.   I don’t know.  I didn’t know my grandpa well… but I loved him and I know it made my mother very sad that grandpa would drink so much.

Alcoholism is a disease that is passed down through generations.  When you realize you are prone to alcoholism because of  family history, you should avoid the habitual use of alcohol.  In fact, you are better off not drinking at all.  I could have been an alcoholic when I was in my early 20’s and single.   I realized that road would have dragged me down to the bottom….left all alone.  That is what happens to some alcoholics…they end up all alone.  Sometimes family members become enablers to their loved ones alcoholism…. why does that happen?

I have family members that have or are struggling from this disease…”alcoholism”.  The problem with getting them help is that they deny having a drinking problem… or they think they have it under control.    Alcoholics often label themselves as victims and perhaps in some ways that is true, but because of their addiction they are likely to make family members victims of their behavior as well. 

I have seen this happen and heard stories of how alcoholism not only destroys the drinker…but also affects every loved one that is near them.  Alcoholics often think everybody else is the  problem…not them.  They may say it is their right to drink and if you don’t like it…to bad, they can do what they want to…….but when it drags down your family and all your other relationships, is it worth it?  “Houston, we have a problem here!”

It takes a lot of love and effort to confront a loved one that has a drinking problem.  I have a friend that was  an alcoholic and she told me her sister confronted her.  Her sister saved her life!!  My friend admitted herself to a center and it was very hard…but thank God she did.  Years later we met and became friends and had she not received help, I would have never met this wonderful woman.  I am glad she listened to her sister and  went through detox.

It grieves my heart to see families struggle… especially when the alcoholic tends to drive their loved ones away by abusing them verbally or physically and by not listening to the truth about their addiction and how it is affecting their relationships.

God can help anybody with this disease, so I ask….

First, to the family…..have you confronted your loved one about their problem and what it is doing to you and your family?  If not, why?   If you have and your loved one didn’t listen…don’t give up, try again and again and again.  Ask God to give you courage to confront your loved one, to have patience and endurance and forgiveness.

And to the alcoholic…. It is never to late to stop and face reality and turn your situation around.   Admit you need help and ask for help.    Don’t ignore what your loved ones are saying or have said to you…they want you whole and healthy and they want a positive loving relationship with you.  Ask God to help you…..He will.  He loves you.

Blessings, Auntie M

Doubting Thomas or Thomas the Believer?: Chapter One: Why worry when you can pray?

It was October of 1980.   My parents & sister and husband traveled from Indiana to Park Ridge IL for a visit.  They seldom drove to Chicago because they didn’t like to drive in the Chicago traffic.   It was always a joy when they came for a visit, but little did I know that would be the last visit for a very long time.  The coming months would be a changing point in all of our lives.

While standing in our kitchen one evening, my mother mentioned that she had a couple of lumps in her abdominal area.  The lumps were so large that we could actually see them protruding.  My sister and I both felt the lumps and couldn’t believe that she had not seen a doctor.  Mother was not one to go to the doctor’s office unless it was necessary.  We told her that she must see a doctor as soon as she returned home.  

After returning home, she called for a doctor’s appointment.  Her first appointment proved alarming.  The doctor told her there were several lumps in her abdominal area and that she should see a specialist.    We were very concerned because Mom was never felt sick.  The specialist told her he wanted to do surgery as soon as possible.

During this time period, I was attending a Bible study called “What Happens When Women Pray” by Evelyn Christiansen, and I asked the women to pray for my mother.  During the next couple of weeks as I prayed, I felt that God gave me an assurance that the lumps would disappear and everything would be alright.  I couldn’t believe that God had given me this assurance…then I started to think… “What if she doesn’t get better!”  Then the assurance I heard from God would just be wishful thinking.  I decided not to tell anyone.  God’s assurance gave me comfort in the days ahead because I chose to believe God spoke to my heart… that it wasn’t my wishful thinking. 

Or did I believe?    Reminds me of the little song I learned in church when I was a little girl.   “Don’t be a doubting Thomas.  Just take Him  at His promise.  Why worry, worry, worry, worry…when you can pray!

Reflection:  Do you  have a  doubting Thomas story?  Would love to hear about your experience and what you learned.  Stayed tuned tomorrow for Chapter two of ……. Doubting Thomas or Thomas the Believer?                           (See description about Thomas below.)

P.S.  I am recovering very well.   I don’t even feel like I had surgery!  What a blessing!  Each day is a gift from God…enjoy!  Blessings, Marilyn

About Thomas:  In Thomas’ best known appearance in the New Testament, [Jn. 20:24-29] he doubts the resurrection of Jesus and demands to touch Jesus’ wounds before being convinced.  This story is the origin of the term Doubting Thomas.  After seeing Jesus alive, Thomas professed his faith in Jesus, exclaiming “My Lord and my God!” On this account he is also called Thomas the Believer.[6]

See you in September…see you when the summers done…

WOW… September arrived so fast…  Well, I am ready to get busy again….  It has been 6 weeks since surgery and I am doing very well.  I still have a PIC line in my arm for the Antibiotics and will hopefully have that removed next Tuesday.  The doctor removed the drainage line yesterday…Yeah!!   Mr doctor told me that it could take six months for my body to heal completely….but I am free to do most anything now.  I am gaining more strength everyday and sleeping very well.

My sister from Indiana visited me for a week.  It was so nice to have her company and help. Thanks sis!

 The following week my daughter and two grandchildren came for a visit.   Mary pampered me and made sure I didn’t lift a finger….  I read a lot of children’s books to Elizabeth and Evan….what a blessing.  Having company helped the days go by quickly.  Thanks Mary!

What now?  I see my Oncologist on Oct. 13th.  Please pray that the lymphatic fluid stops producing.  There is a slim chance I could get fluid build up again…and we don’t want that!!!  I gained around 17# of fluid post surgery..but then lost that fluid and then some  totalling 30#… a very good thing.   

Everybody is getting back into the swing of things now that September is here….   So I hope to see you now that summers done.  I’ll start writing about my mom’s cancer story in future blogs— you won’t want to miss it.  It is an amazing story!

Blessings to each of you….

Watermelon delivered…under unusual circumstances!!!

I am sure you have been wondering where or why I haven’t written on my blog as of late.  Well, the “watermelon” in my stomach got bigger after my last blog and I called my doctor’s office on Monday a.m. 8/2.  They told me to go to the ER Room for assessment as that was the fastest way to have tests run etc.

So off we went to the ER that Monday morning.  I was in extreme pain and had no idea what was going on…. I was admitted to the hospital late that afternoon and was finally released this past Sunday, August 8th to go home and receive Home Nursing care for two weeks.

I’ll save you all the details…but  will share a few reflections with you I experienced this past week.  But first let me say once again, “Thank God for his healing touch and listening to the many prayers of those around the world for me.”   I literally was so sick, I thought I was going to die and go to heaven…. not a bad thing…but sad as I didn’t want to leave my family yet.  I was so sick…I couldn’t talk much on the phone or even think straight. 

The doctors were uncertain what was causing the pain and bloating, fever and high white blood count that reached 23800…but they definitely knew there was an infection somewhere.  So they started treating me with antibiotics and changed them depending on whether they were helping or not.

After CT Scans, Ultra Sounds and who knows what…. by Wednesday the fluid in my abdominal cavity had formed an abscess–three of them.  These were caused by the removal of my lymph nodes which were still producing fluid.  They implanted a drain to help remove the fluid, (which is still in today).  They thought the fluid would look infected…but it was as clear as could be…no infection.  The doctors were not sure if it had been infected and antibiotics had already cleared it up or perhaps there was another source of infection.

Because of this unknown, they did not allow me to eat from Monday through Saturday noon in case they had to take me back into surgery.  They patiently waited to see what each day would bring. 

My turning point was on Thursday when they placed the drain in the abscess…. I started to feel better immediately and even went off the pain pump I had been squeezing non-stop all week.  My husband had been praying for me every day and on Thursday God told him I was going to be ok.  Also, my daughter Mary had the same assurance from God that I was going to get better……  Our priest had also prayed over me “The Anointing of the Sick”…so I was covered!    Isn’t it great how God often confirms something he is doing….. Thank you God!! 

On Friday the Doctors came in my room with a smile and said, “I’ve never seen a turn around so quickly before in any patient.”  We just can’t figure it out.”  In my mind I thought….”Ah yes,  I know the Great Physician who can move mountains.”

The doctors determined I didn’t need surgery and allowed me to eat my first soft meal on Sat. noon.  OK… I never was really hungry…but I must tell you that my body craved good food…. apples, strawberries, watermelon…even water ( I wasn’t allowed to swallow water all week).  Amazing how our bodies know we need good foods. 

Have you ever had your tongue stone dry… is a scary thing.  In the middle of the week my tongue was totally dry…like sandpaper… my gums around my teeth were soft and tender….I felt like I was rotting from the inside out.  (OK too much info…sorry)!  Probably from all the meds I was being given.    I was even hallucinating at times at night…. seeing bugs or things that weren’t really there…..scary.

The staff at UW Hospital were amazing… I was in the right place for my condition.  Other departments were called in on my case…Internal Medicine, Radiology, Infectious Disease …..all came around for a look to advise my doctor.  I was the mystery woman.  There was some thought that perhaps I had  picked up some kind of bacteria in the hospital during surgery…but that still has yet to be solved, in fact, the cause may never be discovered.  But they tested everything under the sun…and nothing would grow in the petri dish.

Since I was feeling better… I  wanted to go home.  I had a normal white cell count and no fever… so they considered sending me home on Sunday.  Sunday came and they said my trip home might  be delayed a day as my white cell count went from 9000 to 12000, but thank God, they let me go home….and here I am today taking if very easy.

Home Nursing care comes in every day to check my vitals and dispense the antibiotic in my pic line…and today I am going to learn how to do that on my own—-(a little nervous about doing this).  They want me to take this antibiotic for two weeks and then they will reevaluate.  My prayer request if that I will be totally off the IV in two weeks.

I still have a lot of fluid build up in my body from all the IV’s etc.   I gained around 15-16# of fluid….My legs are very swollen but the doctor said that would change with time. 

So one day at a time….no lifting….a lot of resting….a lot of movie reruns!  I am still having trouble concentrating when reading…but hopefully the fog will lift soon so I can read.  R&R for the  next 4-5 weeks….I can be still that long???

There were so many thoughts that passed through my mind as I lay in the hospital.  The saying “you don’t know what you have until you don’t have it” is so true.  I must say I had taken for granted many wonderful things in my life and I have taken an inventory.   I wouldn’t wish this life experience on my best friend…but I’ve found an invaluable life lesson because of it.  Everything we have is a gift from God…never to be taken for granted.  Pathology reports show I am cancer free.   For me this time… I got a pass…but even if I had not been given a Cancer Free pass…. or been healed of the infection, God still reigns…..and I praise him for all things.  My hope lies in Him alone forevermore.

For that watermelon that was growing in my body….well, it is gone now…and to think I still love to eat watermelon!!!  A miracle!! 

I will write more reflections as I find focus and hope this will help you to always be encouraged, no matter what you are going through…. God loves you and cares about everything going on in your life.  Why not talk to Him…he is a good listener!!   Blessings, Auntie M

PS… Thank you for all the wonderful cards, flowers, and phone calls as well as all the wonderful food and help around our home during this time.  We are so blessed to have such wonderful family and friends…

Update on Condition

I have not received the pathology reports yet but should within the next couple of days. 

We went to the lake and I relaxed there…didn’t go down to the beach until Sunday.  It was  rough weekend…. almost called the doctor on Sunday but started feeling better by noon on Sunday.  I am still having pain and now realize I am running a low-grade fever.  I just took my temp and it was 101.8 . If I have two consecutive temps within 4 hours that  is over 100.4 then I am told to call the doctor.  Just yesterday I started to take my temperature.  So pray that any infection is healed quickly..

Monday, three of my friends are coming over to do some work around the house.  Light cleaning, laundry, picking garden etc…. I am so very fortunate to have wonderful friends.

Until tomorrow….Blessings,  Auntie M