Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Unexpected Love by Julie Coleman

Unexpected Love, by Julie Coleman, is a book for women about the conversations Jesus had with 9 different women in the Gospels of the Bible (Mathew, Mark, Luke and John).
  • Mary (Jesus’ mother), at the wedding in Cana
  • A woman who was chronically hemorrhaging
  • A sinful woman
  • A woman with a demon-possessed daughter
  • An adulterous woman
  • Martha (the sister of Lazarus)
  • A Samaritan woman
  • Salome (mother of James and John)
  • Mary Magdalene, at the empty tomb

This book is unique because it uses a combination of Scripture and "artistic license" by the author as she writes in the form of a novel and fills in possible details. This could be considered controversial by some, as it seems the author is adding to the words of Scripture. However, if you read the written scenarios with the idea that they are only possibilities of what might have happened, it doesn’t pose a huge problem. The author brings great ideas and insight into what each of the women might have experienced as they spoke with Jesus. She, then, digs deeper by asking/answering questions and explaining the historical atmosphere. She also follows up with how to apply Jesus’ conversations to today’s women; then, sums it all up with some "food for thought."

I found the book to be very interesting and, for women seeking a closer relationship with the Lord, I would recommend using this book as a Bible study tool.

Chapter guides and other free resources are available at:
www.unexpectedlove.org

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Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Updates on My Blood Clot and My Daughter's MRI

I recently read our newest church newsletter and, as always, browsed over the list of many people needing prayer. I saw my name listed, and also my daughter's name listed, and it was a bitter-sweet moment for me.

It was "bitter" because I was reminded of what we are being prayed for - my recovery from chemo, the blood clot I developed post surgery, and the cause of my daughter's seizures. I am ready for these situations to be completely resolved, but that hasn't happened yet.

Then, it was "sweet" because I was reminded of how blessed we are to have so many people praying for us.

Here is an update on the BLOOD CLOT, I posted about a couple of weeks ago: 

Last Wednesday, I saw the doctor again, and the swelling in my arm is going down. This is a good sign that the clot is dissolving. He is having me continue with the Arixtra shots (blood thinner), and I will see him again on August 7th for another checkup.

He also decided to start me on the Tamoxifen. Even though there is a slight risk of blood clots with this medication, he said I should be fine since I am on the blood thinner. So, my Tamoxifen journey has begun; and, so far, all is well with that. If things continue to go well, I will be taking it for the next 10 years to reduce the chances of any cancer recurrence.

Here's an update on my daughter's situation:

Her MRI results showed two masses - one in her pituitary gland, and one in her pineal gland. She has another MRI scheduled for August 9th to look at these masses more closely. It is very common for cysts to be found in these glands, so we are trying not to think the worst. But, quite honestly, these findings do concern us.

I will try to keep you updated as things unfold. Thankyou, again, for your prayer support. Please continue as you think about our family, because I KNOW they are helping get us through these uncertain times.

No matter what, God is good ALL the time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Preparing A Child for an MRI

In a PREVIOUS POST, I mentioned my daughter had a sleep-deprived EEG done, due to some new onset seizures. The EEG showed epileptiform discharges, which basically means she has some form of epilepsy. She was put on medication (Keppra) to keep the seizures under control, and was also scheduled for an MRI.

My blogging friend, Sylvia, also has a teen daughter with epilepsy and autism. She has been dealing with yearly MRI's for the majority of her daughter's life, so I asked her what to expect and if she had any advice for us. You can check out her response on her blog: 


While my daughter's situation is a bit different than Sylvia's daughter, I did glean some helpful advice from someone who has gone before us. (Thankyou, Sylvia!)

This past Tuesday was the day of the MRI. She did really well with it all, and we are now waiting for the results.  Here are some of the things we did to give us a more pleasant experience, some of which were already mentioned on Sylvia's blog: 


  • My husband and I went together and shared in the care of our daughter, as well as kept each other company.
  • We made sure we arrived in plenty of time, so we didn't feel rushed and more stressed out.
  • We asked my parents to watch our son, so we could keep our focus specifically on the needs of our daughter during this time.
  • We prepared our daughter ahead of time with explanations of what she could expect.   
  • We prayed and had our family and friends praying.
  • I bought lots of Jell-O and clear fruit juices ahead of time to keep her tummy somewhat satisfied, since she wasn't allowed to eat anything for 8 hours prior to the test. (This was because she needed to be sedated in order to keep her completely still during the test.)
  • We distracted her prior to the test with a favorite movie.
  • We allowed her to bring a favorite toy for comfort. (The toy of choice this day was a stuffed Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.)
  • Before they inserted an IV into her hand, we allowed them to give her nasal Versed, a medication that was sprayed into her nose in order to relieve anxiety. She did not like the spray up her nose, and had a few tears, but it was very brief. They also used a numbing spray on her hand, Pain Ease, before inserting the needle.
  • We were there with her before they took her to the MRI room, and were there with her when she woke up.
  • We stayed calm and reassuring, which always helps to keep her calm as well.
  • As soon as we were done with the testing, we left the hospital and headed back to a more comfortable environment.

Maybe this will be a help to someone else who is preparing for their young child's or special needs child's first time MRI. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CANCER JOURNEY #26: Good News and Bad News

It has been 3 weeks since my final chemo treatment, and I went back to see my Oncologist today (Wednesday, July 10th) for a checkup. I have good news and bad news...

The good news is that all of my bloodwork is now within the normal range. They are all on the low end of normal, but it is encouraging to see they are going back up and I am no longer considered to be anemic. I do still have weakness in my legs, my muscles are stiff and sore, and my hands are still experiencing the effects of neuropathy. These are all from the chemo, and I will continue to improve in these areas as time goes by.

The bad news is that I have a blood clot near my left collar bone. The fancy word for it is subclavian DVT (deep vein thrombosis). When I saw the doctor for my checkup, we showed him how swollen my arm still is after the removal of my port last Friday. He felt it was a good idea to send me over to the hospital for a Doppler, just to make sure there wasn't a blood clot causing the swelling. I was pretty sure that was not the case, and was very surprised when the tech said I did indeed have one. We are not sure how long it has been there, and the results still need to be examined more closely. We are guessing it has been there for several weeks, due to how swollen my arm has been since my arm port was installed 8 weeks ago.

The hospital sent me back to my Oncologist. We had to wait to be fitted in, since we were not scheduled to be seen again. When he finally saw us, he said we will have to hold off on me taking TAMOXIFEN for awhile, until this blood clot issue is resolved. (If you need a reminder about why I need to take Tamoxifen, go to CANCER JOURNEY #25.) The reason for the delay is because Tamoxifen also has a slight risk of causing blood clots and could make my current one worse. So, instead of taking this medication, I am now taking ARIXTRA, which is a blood thinning medication I need to inject into my stomach once per day. I will be seeing the doc again two weeks from today and we will decide if I should continue with Arixtra and/or start taking Coumadin/Warfarin.

This was not something we were expecting, and I'm not thrilled about it; but I am thankful the blood clot was found and that it has not caused a need for hospitalization. Things could have been much worse. Prayers are appreciated that the clot will dissolve quickly, that the swelling will go down in my arm, and that no other complications will arise.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Joy of the Lord is My Strength

In the midst of difficult times (most recently, my cancer journey), several have commented on the way I continue to smile. Does this mean I am happy about the difficulties I have encountered? No... most definitely not. If I had a choice, I would not have chosen to go through the trials I have faced. I don't think ANYONE wants to go through difficult times (unless they are self-martyrs, which I am not.) So, why do I still smile? For one, its just because its a part of who I am. I have always tried to find the good in life, no matter what I am going through. So, does that mean I never get discouraged? Again, the answer is No. But, my smile, which comes from deep within my spirit, is an outward expression of the JOY I have because of my trust in the Lord.

So, what exactly is JOY, then?

I have a book by Elisa Morgan called "Naked Fruit," which is about "getting honest about the fruit of the spirit." (Note: This is not a book review I am doing here, but just wanted to share some thoughts.) In this book, the author takes time to talk about the different types of fruits found in Galatians 5:22-23, one of which is JOY.  

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
 
In the chapter about JOY, Morgan first explains that joy is NOT the same as happiness. HAPPINESS is circumstantial and is something we experience when life is going the way we want it to go. It is "a good feeling based on good circumstances."

JOY is more than happiness. Morgan explains, "Joy is something deep that celebrates God's character despite the circumstances." It is not just an emotion, but also a quality of life.

There are so many times in our lives when things don't go as planned, or according to our desires. We don't have to be happy about them, but we can still experience joy. Why? Because "Joy is the conviction that God is in control of every detail of our lives even when those details appear to be out of control."

True JOY in our lives is having confidence in God - knowing that no matter what happens, there is a reason for it, and we can always rest confidently in the care of His loving hands.

The joy of the Lord is MY strength... And, that is something I will always smile about.
 
The Joy of the Lord will by my strength.
I will not falter, I will not faint.
He is my Shepherd, I am not afraid.
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
 
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
 
The joy of the Lord will be my strength
He will uphold me all of my days.
I am surrounded by mercy and grace.
And the joy of the Lord is my strength.
 
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
 
The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not waver, walking by faith.
He will be strong to deliver me safe.
And the joy of the Lord is my strength.
 
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord
The joy of the Lord is my strength.
 
 

 
 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Pray The Scriptures

Author Kevin Johnson is the creator of the "Pray the Scriptures Bible." His new book, "Pray the Scriptures - A 40 Day Prayer Experience," is the next step to that Bible, although you don't need to have the Bible in order to read/use the book.  According to the introduction, the book helps to "build your own habit of praying Scriptures by leading you to respond to forty daily Bible readings."

Each "day" has an opening thought, a passage of Scripture broken up with prompts to use in learning to pray the Scriptures back to God, and questions to answer for reflection.

MY THOUGHTS:
(1)  This book wasn't one that sparked a huge interest in me, but maybe it would have been better if I were doing it in a group setting rather than on my own. While it CAN be used on your own, doing it with others may help give the accountability needed to truly reflect on each passage.

(2)  The author uses several different versions/translations of the Bible throughout the book. While I'm not a one-version-only type of person, there are some versions I do not recommend for study purposes (i.e. The Message) because they actually take away from or add to the original meaning of the Scriptures. I suggest using and comparing your preferred Bible translation (NIV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, etc) with what is written in the book.

(3)  This is not a book meant to just sit down and read. It is interactive and requires some thought from you. This is good, as it helps bring out more meaning of the Scriptures, and it can help you work through issues such as forgiveness, trials, loneliness, the love of God, contentment, service, etc.

NOTE: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers, and I have expressed my own opinions.

My Arm Port Has Been Removed

It has been over two weeks since the end of chemo treatments. There are still days when the side effects of the chemo keep me from doing too much, but I am gaining more strength and energy as each day goes by.

On Friday, I finally had surgery to get my arm port removed. That thing has been "trouble" ever since the day it was put in nearly 8 weeks ago - swelling, discomfort, and it was only able to be accessed twice. So, I was so glad to have it removed.

I knew that removing my port was a simple surgery, however, there are always risks involved. So, it was perfect timing when I read a specific verse the morning before the surgery. Awhile back, a friend of mine gave me a Hallmark gift book called, "100 Favorite Bible Verses." I read #37 out of this book, which was Proverbs 3:5 - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."  It was just what I needed to help me be at peace - something to remind me that, no matter what happens, my God is trustworthy.

The surgery went well, although, in pre-op they had trouble getting an IV inserted. The swelling in my left arm kept them from trying a vein on that side, and I am not supposed to have an IV in my right arm due to the mastectomy and the risk of increasing lymphedema. So, they tried to use a vein in my left foot. The vein blew. They tried a vein in my right foot. It did not blow, but they could not get it inserted correctly. With no other options (or, so I thought), I suggested they go ahead and use the vein in my right arm without using a tourniquet. The nurse went ahead and did that without consulting the Anesthesiologist and, when he found out, he told them to take it out. Then, they brought in some sort of ultrasound machine to help the doctor find and access a vein in my right ankle. That one finally worked - barely! Not sure what the next option would have been if that one had not worked.

After surgery, I was sore, of course and needed pain medication. Today (two days later) I am free of pain meds, however, the swelling in my arm and hand has increased to where I can barely see my knuckles. With time, it should improve as the arm heals. That is my prayer, anyway. Please join me in praying for quick healing of my arm, as well as for the rest of my body as it recovers from chemo.