Saturday, December 28, 2013

One Word for 2014

I recently came across a new idea about New Years resolutions that I wanted to share:

"Resolutions are rarely kept, and goals are easily forgotten; but, ONE WORD sticks!"

This quote came from the ONE WORD video (see below). Take a couple minutes to watch it. Then, you can also check out the ONE WORD website to learn more about this new idea. On the website, you can also get a FREE Action Plan that will give you guidance in discovering what YOUR word is for the new year. (There is a book available for purchase, but you don't need to buy the book in order to get the Action Plan.)

If I had done this last year, my one word would have been easy to decide:  PERSEVERANCE. This past year (2013) has probably been the most difficult year of my life. Not just because of my cancer (although that played a BIG part), but from various other reasons as well. Yet, I held the Lord's hand through it all and persevered under trial.

To find my word for 2014, I took a little time to reflect on the past year and then pray about what my word should be for this year. It finally came to me. My one word is PURPOSE.

There is a reason why I survived cancer; but, more than that, there is a purpose for my life here on earth. So, when I feel discouraged, or disappointed, or inadequate, or am simply trying to make a tough decision, I need to remember what my purpose is:

  • My purpose is to love and support my husband (Genesis 2:18; Titus 2:3-5 See verses below)
  • My purpose is to be a teacher and caretaker to my children (Deut. 6:7; Titus 2:3-5)
  • My purpose is to serve the Lord diligently, and with gladness (Psalm 100:2)
  • My purpose is to try my best to be an encouragement to others (1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:13) 
  • My purpose is to glorify God in all I do (1 Cor. 10:31)

ONE WORD can create "clarity, power, passion and life-change." It can also takes the stress out of trying to live up to a New Year's resolution. Yes, goals are good, and should be considered. But, with just one word to remember, I can think about it through-out the year to help bring me back into focus when its needed.

Give it a try! And, if you decide to do it, I'd love to hear what YOUR one word is for the new year, too!


Genesis 2:18 - Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."

Deuteronomy 6:7 - and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Psalm 100:2 - Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.

Titus 2:3-5 - Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, [to be] sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Hebrews 3:13 - But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is [still] called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

1 Corinthians 10:31 - Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Knowing God By Name

GIRLFRIENDS IN GOD is a non-denominational ministry that uses women to encourage and equip other women in their spiritual journey.

Sharon Jaynes, Gwen Smith, and Mary Southerland are the co-authors of a "girlfriends in God" devotional called KNOWING GOD BY NAME.

I thought this was a unique devotional that is a product of some good, Biblical research. The authors take 8 weeks to introduce us to 40 different names for God, and what they each mean.

  • ELOHIM means "the Creator"
  • EL ROI means "the God who sees"
  • EL ELYON means "the most high God"
For 5 days of each of the eight weeks, there is a Scripture reference, a short devotional, and a prayer. Then, on day 6 of each week, there is a time for reflection and going deeper with God.

I haven't finished reading the entire book but, what I have read so far has been interesting and thought-provoking. I look forward to reading more.

To get a sneak peek, you can download Chapter 1 HERE. Check it out!

I received this book free of charge from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "Women Living Well" by Courtney Joseph

Courtney Joseph has a BLOG I have been following for maybe a year or more. She is a dedicated wife to her husband, and a mother of two children. I enjoy reading what she shares on her blog. So, I jumped at the chance to review her new book (which is the same title as her blog),  "Women Living Well." The book focuses on 4 areas that Christian women can find joy in - God, husband, children, and home.

The first part of the book - "Your Walk with the King"- has great examples and suggestions on how to improve your quiet times with the Lord, your prayer life, and your overall relationship with the One who loves you most. I especially liked her idea of using a "prayer walk" throughout my home to help me focus on what is most important. For example, when making the bed in the morning, whisper a prayer for my husband as I straighten his side. Then, do the same for the kids as I wipe crumbs off the table, and so on... The idea is to turn chores into short bursts of prayer for the ones we love.

Part 2 focuses on our marriages. The author uses Biblical references and personal experiences to share about what makes a marriage work. Then, she also explains how us women can easily think the "grass is greener" in another marriage. But, the truth is that ALL marriages have flaws, and ALL marriages take work! At the end of this section, Courtney includes a 2-week marriage challenge to follow if you choose to do so.

Part 3 is about parenting. It includes topics like the influence of a mother, the choices we make, anger management, and dealing with bad attitudes. This section made me realize I’m not alone in NOT being a perfect mother and in NOT having perfect kids. We ALL struggle with parenting, and that's a fact. But, isn't it great that we have someone who is perfect that we can turn to when we need wisdom and strength?! Thank you, Lord, for always being there to help us!

The last section is about homemaking. It has thoughts and ideas regarding schedules, routines, and most of all, PRIORITIES. This was a good reminder to me to keep working towards pleasing the Lord as I care for my family and home.

Ladies, if you are looking for inspiration, encouragement, and sincere suggestions for growing in your walk with the Lord and being the kind of wife and mother that is pleasing it God’s eyes, I recommend this book to you. I am glad I was given the chance to read it.


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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Your Pain Is Not Meaningless

Many of you are struggling right now. Many are sick. Many are in pain (physically or emotionally). Many are under stress. Many are getting discouraged.

I am among you, my friends. I'm not going to complain to you about all of my struggles, mostly because its just a waste of my time. I have better things to do than wallow in misery, and bring you down with me. But, I'm not going to lie and say everything has been fine either, because it hasn't. Just know that it isn't one big thing that brought me to a place of mild depression, but rather several "smaller" things piled on top of each other. Regardless, my pain is real... and your pain is real... BUT, for those of us who are Believers in Jesus Christ, our pain is also not meaningless.

I recently came across this song by Shane & Shane that I want to share. It is a song about the pain and discouragement we feel when life is hard. We may feel as if its all meaningless. But, its not. There is a purpose for it. And even when we are hurting, we can still PRAISE the Lord through it all.

You will notice that halfway through the song is a short excerpt from one of John Piper's sermons. It is based on these verses: 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Please listen, and be encouraged...



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

EL's 3rd MRI

Its been over a month since I LAST POSTED about EL and her enlarged pituitary gland. At that time, the doctors said they did not really know what was causing her pituitary to be enlarged, but suspected it to be a benign tumor of some sort.

On November 6, we took EL back to have another MRI to check for any new enlargement. Then, we saw the doctor. After looking over the pictures, and comparing them to the ones taken 3 months ago, the doctor said there is indeed a tumor, however, it has not grown and can be considered a non-active tumor. He is not concerned about it at this time and said she will not need to have another MRI until one year from now (unless, of course, she starts having symptoms). We are supposed to continue following up with her Endocrinologist and an Ophthalmologist, to keep watching and make sure it is not causing any problems. But, those visits will not be until about 6 months from now. So... we thank the Lord for the good report! And, we feel like we finally have some of this behind us now. This is such a huge sigh of relief! Especially since this last MRI was really difficult on EL, as well as on her daddy and me. Let me give you a little sample of how it went...

When EL came out of sedation, she was super irritated and grumpy. She immediately wanted to get up and go to the bathroom, but was still so groggy that she could barely sit up. We put her into a wheelchair to get her to the bathroom, and she grumbled about not being able to walk. The nurse and I ignored her complaints and got her situated in the bathroom. Then, she could not go, even though she had so adamantly said she needed to. So, we took her back to her room, where she promptly said she needed to go again. I asked her if she was sure, and according to her, she was. So, I took her back and we tried again. Still nothing. So, back to the room we went. She sat in the bed and grumbled, mumbled and cried. I held her and told her it was okay to cry, but she just got mad and said, "Its NOT okay!" but, then she cried some more. (sigh)

EL needed to drink something before we were allowed to leave, so the nurse brought some apple juice and an orange drink. She didn't want any. I told her she needed to drink one and gave her a choice. She chose the apple juice (because, according to her, she "hated" orange drink, which she really doesn't.). So, she drank the apple juice and shivered under the covers while watching cartoons(due to the anesthetic they used on her) . Shortly after finishing the apple juice, she said she wanted the orange juice also. She drank it, and didn't hate it after all. Then, she said she needed to go to the bathroom again. Okay, let's try again.... but she didn't want me in the room with her. I stepped out and this time it was a success! But, she continued her grumpy mood and made sure to let me and everyone else around her know that she "hated" it there and doesn't ever want to go back! "I know, Sweetie.... I know...." (and, by the way, she also let me know her name is NOT Sweetie!)

Her mood quickly changed when we arrived in the doctor's office and she saw a toy she remembered from the last time we were there. Oh, she loves this toy (because its a dog), and I'd like to try and find it for her somewhere, but can't seem to find it online. I don't even know the name of it. I know it is made by the Evenflo Company, and I think its some sort of travel toy, and it plays music when you push certain buttons. Here is a picture of it. If anyone knows where we can find one, please let us know.

Here is EL in a much happier mood, sitting in the doctor's office and drawing the toy...

Its hard to know what goes on in her mind sometimes. But, when we find something that makes her happy, that makes us happy too. We love our sweet girl, and we thank you for the prayers you've said on her behalf. God is good, as always.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

4 Months Post Chemo - All is Well

Where are we now?

1.  Last month - I didn't post about this - but I went in for my yearly mammogram. It was my first one post diagnosis of breast cancer. Quite honestly, I was nervous about getting it done, but knew it was necessary. So, I went. A few days later, I received a pink slip in the mail. A beautiful, wonderful, pink slip with the words, "We are pleased to inform you that the results of your breast imaging procedure are normal." (BIG SIGH OF RELIEF!)

2.  Last week, I had another Doppler done to check the status of the small blood clot in my jugular vein. The technician said she still saw a small sliver, but it was not causing any problems with blood flow, and there were no new clots to be seen. (THANK YOU, LORD!)

3.  Today, I had a follow-up appointment with my Oncologist. All my bloodwork is within normal range... AND... he cleared me from taking Xarelto, the blood thinner I was taking in order to combat the blood clots. He said the sliver they are seeing looks like a shadow that is only there because there WAS a blood clot. It is not causing a blockage of any kind and is no longer of any major concern. (PRAISE GOD!)

Where do we go from here?

1.  I will continue to take Tamoxifen, the med that blocks estrogen. So far, it seems to be working well for me. I am having the expected hot flashes and other symptoms that confirm it is working. Unfortunately, one of the negative side effects is joint pain. It feels like arthritis, and is at its worst in the morning. But, after getting busy and moving around, the pain subsides. It is not bad enough for me to need any pain killers, so we will continue with the Tamoxifen. I much prefer a little joint pain over the alternative.

2.  We will keep an eye on my neck and arm for any new pain or swelling. If any occurs, I am to call my doctor's office ASAP, as this could be a sign of a clot forming again. Hopefully, that will not happen.

3.  If all goes as planned, I do not need to return for another check-up until 3 months from now. Thankfully, I'm no longer being seen on a weekly, or even a monthly, basis anymore.

All is well.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness - Guest Blogger Jen Vandermyde

Please don't think breast cancer won't happen to you just because you are young, or because you don't have a family history of it. I was 43 when I was diagnosed (which I consider to be fairly young), and I don't have any known history of it in my family. My grandmother had a lump removed when she was young, but we are not certain what the diagnosis was. So, when my lump was removed, it was tested for any possible genetic links (like the BRCA gene) and it turned up negative.

I have a friend, Jen, whose history is similar to mine, but she was even younger than me when she was diagnosed. She was 37.

And, MEN, you are not exempt from getting it either! It is more rare in men, but it does happen. Check out this article from The American Cancer SocietyWHAT IS BREAST CANCER IN MEN?

So, in light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to share what my friend, Jen, posted recently on her blog TO SOAR ON EAGLE WINGS. I hope it encourages all who are reading this to keep a watchful eye on yourselves. Early detection is a key to survival.

Thanks for allowing me to share this, Jen...
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s kind of hard to not know that with all the pink around isn’t it? And I’ll admit that I’m not a big one for huge advertising promotions. So often the original good cause gets lost in all the rush to brand every product to show that the companies care. I’m not even really a pink-loving girl. But I do feel strongly that young women – all women - should take this disease seriously. And because of that I thought I’d write a little bit about it this month.
I went to my ob/gyn yesterday to discuss my upcoming surgery. I’ll write more on that later when I have it all figured out. While I was there though, she told me that she uses my case with her young patients. She of course does not use my name, and I’m glad she tells other women what has happened to me. You see I didn’t fit into a high-risk category. I don’t have anyone in my family who has had breast cancer except for a great aunt and my cousin. It is true that my cousin was also young when she got breast cancer but both of us have had genetic testing and both of us do not carry the BRCA gene. That means that with today’s knowledge of breast cancer our cancers are not known to be caused by a faulty gene that we inherited. I think a lot of women think that the genetic factor is bigger than it is. I know I hid behind that fact. I thought that the young women that got cancer were mostly women that had huge family histories of the disease so they would know to be concerned. But that simply is not true.
I also used some of the research findings to justify why I didn’t need to worry about breast cancer. Research has shown that having your first baby before 30 and breastfeeding helps with your risk. I had both of those areas covered. According to studies I should have been in an average risk group for breast cancer. But I still got it. At the age of 37.
I’m not saying this to scare everyone. I do not believe that God wants us to live our lives in a state of constant fear that something bad might happen. He tells us to trust Him and not to worry. We know that if we are His children then nothing can happen to us that He does not allow. I fully believe all this is true.
No, the reason I tell you about my story is to remind you that even though what happened to me is rare it can happen –only 5-7 percent of women that get breast cancer are under the age of 40. I don’t want you to be fearful of it. But I do want you to be aware. I had had a baseline mammogram done at age 35. It did not show anything of concern. I also went yearly to my doctor. But I was not doing monthly self checks. And I wish that I had been. I am now for sure! I do not still beat myself up about it though. God in His wonderful mercy allowed me to find my cancer anyway. I found it while putting on my bra. 
I just want to encourage all of you women to make sure that you are taking care of yourself in this regard. Go get that first mammogram that you have been putting off. It won’t be your favorite part of the day, but it isn’t the end of the world either. Do those self checks. Make sure you are getting a yearly physical. Do your part and then trust God with the rest. Trust Him that He loves you more than anyone else does. Trust Him that He will help you through anything that might come your way!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Six Questions About Me

My blogging friend, Sylvia, tagged me in the "Six questions about me" blog game. Here are the 6 questions I chose to answer:

Is this how you imagined your life would be?
Yes and No. When I was young and single, I imagined I would be married someday and would have at least a couple of children to raise. I knew I wanted to be a homemaker and a stay-at-home mom, like my mother was. These things were fulfilled in my life. However, I did not imagine being a mother of a special needs child, or being a homeschool mom, or being diagnosed with cancer. These were "surprises" in my life that I didn't really expect. But, life is like that.

What’s your drink of choice when out with girlfriends?
When I get a chance to have a girls night out, I will choose something like a smoothie or vanilla flavored decaf coffee, or sometimes just water with lemon, depending on where we are going and what we are doing.

How did your blog come about?
I was looking for a way to help promote my self-published book "What is Communion?" Then, it just turned into a creative outlet for me, as well as a way to be an encouragement to others.

What hobbies do you have that you don’t mention on your blog?
Aside from writing, I collect pennies and State quarters. I also enjoy Genealogy research when I get the chance.

What do you love about yourself?
Positive thinking.

If money were no question, I’d purchase… 
A cruise vacation for our entire family - maybe something like a Disney cruise.


The rules of this game state that I must choose three bloggers to tag so they can also choose six questions to answer. I choose:

Carie @ Living, Loving, and Learning with the Lord
The "Queen" @ Queen of My Country Castle
Jen @ To Soar on Eagle Wings

If you choose to participate please pick six of the following questions to answer!
1. Is this how you imagined your life would be?
2. Name one good deed you did that went unseen.
3. What’s your drink of choice when out with girlfriends?
4. How did your blog come about?
5. Name something you’ve learned about yourself that has surprised you.
6. What hobbies do you have that you don’t mention on your blog?
7. What do you love about yourself?
8. If money were no question, I’d purchase…… 
9. What’s your biggest struggle in life?

Friday, October 4, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Hopelifter by Kathe Wunnenberg

What is a "hope-lifter?" It is someone who spreads hope to those who are feeling hopeless. He/she "lifts up" the hurting person when they are down by providing love and support where needed.

How do we become hope-lifters? That's what the book HOPELIFTER, by Kathe Wunnenberg, is all about.

There are three main parts to this book: 
(1) Discovering Hope
(2) Embracing Hope
(3) Giving Hope

Then, the book also includes a discussion guide for group study, verses of hope to share with others, and helpful websites about hope/caring to look up.

I like part three the best, as it has 100 different personal stories from those who have "been there" - those with infertility, those who have lost loved ones, those who are sick, those who are caregivers, those who are single, those with marriage difficulties, those who are undergoing transitions of some sort. The list goes on...

In a world where there is so much discouragement and hope seems to be lost, we all need to be thinking of ways to strengthen and encourage each other. This book CAN inspire you in this area.

However, the book wasn't exactly what I was expecting. If you are looking for a book that gives specific ideas/examples of how to encourage others undergoing difficult situations, this book is probably not it. It seems to focus more on "stories" and on the author's personal experiences than it does on giving practical "how-to" advice. Still, not a bad book! It just wasn't what I was expecting.

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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Another Trip to St. Louis Brought Good News

Yesterday, we took another trip to St. Louis for EL. This time, we had a consultation with a Neuro-Oncologist. When I first heard that title, it scared me a bit, because I automatically think of an Oncologist as someone who treats cancer. However, when the nurse practitioner set up the appointment with us, she told us this type of doctor treats ALL kinds of lesions in the brain, whether they are cancerous or not. So, because of EL's enlarged pituitary gland, we were referred to him, and he will most likely be our main contact from here on out regarding any future treatments.

The doctor and his assistant shared with us that all of EL's blood work from two weeks ago came back good. So, praise the Lord for this great news!

They also showed us the pictures of the enlarged pituitary gland and said it is not acting like a fast-growing tumor. Again, that is great news!

We still do not know exactly what the lesion is. So, for now, we will just wait and watch.

In about a month, we will return for another MRI to check and see if there is any enlargement. The last one we had done was in August, so that will make them 3 months apart. Until then, we carry on as usual.

It was such a beautiful day so, after the appointment, we took a quick visit to the St. Louis Arch. The Visitor's Center was closed, but we enjoyed getting a close-up look at this "gateway to the West."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ideas to Encourage a Cancer Patient

How do you encourage someone who is undergoing treatments for cancer? I can't speak for everyone, as we are all different, and what encourages one person may not be the best idea for someone else. But, I want to at least share some of the things that encouraged ME when I took foot on my cancer journey. That way, if you are looking for ways to bless someone else diagnosed with cancer (or for anyone who is experiencing a long-term illness of some sort), maybe this will help spark some ideas...

ENCOURAGING CARDS - Sending a card is quick and easy. I received many cards in the mail, and it brought great encouragement to know someone was thinking of me and praying for me. Some cards had inspirational verses or poems in them, and some were humorous or light-hearted. They all have a special place in my heart.

NOTES OF ENCOURAGEMENT - If you don't send a card, at least consider sending a note in an e-mail, a text message, or on Facebook. These are not always as personal as a card in the mail, but can still bring encouragement when its needed.

MEALS - I wrote a post awhile back about BLESSING OTHERS THROUGH MEAL MINISTRIES. Meals of any kind (homemade and hot, frozen, or gift cards to local fast-food restaurants) were a great help to me and my family when I wasn't feeling well.

FLOWERS - Several times, I received some pretty flowers or a nice green plant to help bring some color and cheer to the room. Flowers are always a nice way to say you care.

CHILDCARE - I could not have made it without the support of friends and family who took care of the kids on treatment days or during doctor's appointments.

REMEMBERING THE KIDS - A friend sent the kids a box of DVD's and activity books especially for them, to help keep them occupied on days when I was laying on the couch. It was so sweet of her to think of them, and made them feel special too.

THINKING OF YOU GIFTS - These can be anything, but here are some of the things that were a blessing to me:

1.  Reading material - Magazines, Devotional books, and other books that brought encouragement.

2.  Cozy blankets, afghans, or quilts - I received several, and most of them were homemade, but a store-bought one is nice too.

3.  Slippers/slipper socks to keep my feet warm.

4.  Scarves and hats to keep my head covered after losing my hair.

5.  Crossword puzzle books

6.  DVD's of good movies or TV shows to watch.

7.  Cookies and/or other snacks. I loved getting things like muffins, quick breads, and oatmeal cookies that could be eaten for a quick breakfast or for snacks.

8.  A "goodie bag" or box of several needed items such as gum, mints, sour candy, tissues, bath salts, lotion, hand sanitizer, pen and journal, water bottle, puzzle books, etc.

PERSONAL CONTACT - As long as I wasn't feeling too sick, a visit from a friend was a nice change of pace. Even just stopping by for a 10-minute chat helped to lighten my mood.

PRAYER - If you can't do any of the above, you CAN commit to praying for someone. I had several who said they were praying for me and my family daily. I know these prayers helped to get us through the difficult days.

Isaiah 35:3 - Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: 365 Pocket Devotions by Chris Tiegreen

Busy lifestyles and/or circumstances often keep us from spending time with the Lord on a regular basis; but, spending time with God is VITAL in helping us keep our focus on what is really important.

The Introduction to 365 Pocket Devotions says: 
"When you spend time with God, something incredible happens. As you take a few moments to pause from the stress and hurry of everyday life to focus on God and His plan for you, you become more centered, refreshed, and at peace. Meeting with God every day transforms you. And as you grow closer to Him, you'll have access to His guidance and wisdom for all the daily decisions you face. That's what the inspirational readings in this book are all about:  renewing your soul so you can better understand yourself, your world, and your God."
The book has one devotional for every day of the year. Each devotional contains a Bible verse and a reflection on a specific topic such as peace, forgiveness, delighting in God, trusting God, joy, wisdom, trials, and blessings. It is a small, pocket or purse-sized book with a soft, flexible cover that makes it easy to carry with you wherever you go. It also has an attached ribbon bookmark to help you keep your place.

I like the fact that you can choose to read the devotionals in the order they are in the book, or you can choose a topic from an index in the back of the book and read one or two devotionals on that topic.

When time is short, this is a good little devotional book to help you remain connected to the Father as you read one of the devotionals, reflect upon it, and take a few moments for prayer.

NOTE:  Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. I have shared my own opinion.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Possible Tumor for EL

The last update on EL's Health issues was posted ONE MONTH AGO, when I shared the results of her 2nd MRI. Finally, on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, we were able to consult with three different specialists regarding the spots in her pituitary and pineal glands.

This is a side view of the brain, with the front of the brain being on the left. Click on this picture to enlarge it, and you will be able to read where the pineal and pituitary glands are located.

THE NEUROSURGEON:  This was the first appointment on Tuesday. After examination and discussion, the doctor does not believe the two spots are related. The one in the pineal looks to be a a simple fluid-filled cyst. The one in the pituitary is a bit more complex. He said there is a good possibility that EL will need a biopsy done at some point in the future. However, we need to wait for blood work results to determine just how urgent it is. A level of TUMOR MARKERS was drawn. So, we await the results of that, which can take at least a week to get back. (Elevated tumor markers can be an indication of a tumor that is cancerous, or for certain types of benign tumors.)

THE OPHTHALMOLOGIST: At this appointment (also on Tuesday), EL was put through a thorough eye exam, including having drops put into her eyes to dilate the pupils. The exam was done to see if the enlarged pituitary was affecting her vision at all, or if the enlarged pituitary was causing any sort of damage to the optic nerve. (The pituitary is abutting up against the undersurface of the optic nerve.) It wasn't a fun experience for EL, but was necessary. Thankfully, the exam revealed that she has 20/20 vision and her optic nerve is in good shape!

THE ENDOCRINOLOGIST:  This was the final appointment, and probably the most important one. At this visit, the doctor examined EL, and talked with us about her symptoms. Currently, the doctor cannot give us a definite answer as to what is causing EL's pituitary enlargement. He ordered blood to be drawn to check her hormone levels and, once these results come back (along with the Tumor Marker levels), we will know more.

CONCLUSION:  The word "tumor" is a scary word. However, the doctors explained that a tumor just means there is an abnormal growth. It can be benign, or it can be malignant. The current indication is that, IF this is a tumor, it is most likely benign. So, if all of the blood levels turn out to be normal, then we won't need to be seen again for 3 months. At that time, they will do another MRI to see if the spots have enlarged or stayed the same. If, however, the blood levels are abnormal, then we will discuss what the next plan of action will be.

As a parent with a medical issue, I have fought hard to get well for the sake of my family; but, even though going through treatments was a hard thing for me, it has been 10 times harder to watch my child going through numerous medical tests. Its one thing to suffer as an adult, but its entirely different to watch your child suffer, especially when she doesn't truly understand why she is being put through these tests.

Through it all,  we will hold tightly to the promise that the Lord is there to help us through this.

Psalm 121:2 - My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

One Year Ago, I Began My Cancer Journey

One year ago on September 12th, I found a lump that changed my life forever. And, it was one year ago today (September 14th) that I had a mammogram to get a picture of that lump. Wow, how time flies. This past year has been an incredible journey - one that I never really thought I would be going through, at least not in my early forties. I did not enjoy this path I was put on, but I did find joy in the journey because I have chosen to allow God to work in and through me through it all. Back in 2002, my dad (Dr. James L. McIntosh) preached a sermon on this very thing. I took notes on the sermon without realizing just how relevant it would be to me some day. Here is  a quick summary of the message...


Luke 22:31-32 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded [permission] to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

Have you ever been "sifted," as in Luke 22:31? (To be sifted means to be put through a challenge). Every Christian goes through "stuff" in their lives. At times we handle it correctly and at times we "drop the ball." When God sifts us, it is a time of change that helps us to grown closer to Him. Therefore, as James 1:2 says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials."

There are 3 men in the Bible we will focus on who were sifted. The desired result of their sifting was:
  • For them to be broken and empty before God.
  • To bring about a time of change in order to draw them closer to God.
  • To help them prove their loyalty to Christ.
  • To teach them to say "no" to the urges of the flesh.
  • To teach them to say "no" to pride and "self-esteem." (We need to focus on God rather than ourselves. A better term would be to have "God-esteem.")
  • To help them be better able to say "yes" to the longing for God which He has placed in our soul.

What types of things does God use to bring about the changes He deems best?

The three men we will focus on are:
(1) Job
(2) Paul
(3) Simon/Peter

JOB -- He was an upright and blameless man (Job 1:1 & 8). He knew the difference between good and evil. He didn't try to combine the two, like many of us do in our lives. Instead, he turned from evil. In Job 1:5, he even interceded for his children. When Satan approached God (Job 1:6-12), God brought up the subject of Job. Satan said Job was so loyal because he was "coddled." He had everything he ever wanted. So, God gave Satan permission to test Job. During the sifting process, Job mourned but he still worshiped God (Job 1:20-22). Instead of saying, "Why me?" he fell on his face and worshiped in the trial.

PAUL -- 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul had an encounter with God and was changed dramatically for the better. He became a very Godly man, walking close to the Lord and willing to be persecuted for Christ. He was used of the Lord in innumerable ways. However, he was still given a "thorn" in his flesh in order to keep him humble. We don't know what the "thorn" was. It could have been a physical problem, a spiritual problem, a battle with a sin such as lustful thoughts, or there's even speculation that it could have been the mere fact that Paul was being persecuted and mocked and he had a hard time dealing with it at times. It's not important for us to know what the "thorn" represented. All we know is that Paul asked God to take the thorn from him at three different times, and God said "no." So, Paul learned to accept the Lord's decision and to be content to suffer for Christ. The thorn shows that Paul was not perfect. He was human. But, despite his weaknesses, he was still highly used of God. We don't have to be perfect in order to be in ministry or be used by God. If that's what we are waiting for, then we will never serve the Lord the way He intended us to. 

PETER -- Luke 22:21-32, 54-62, Satan was allowed to sift Peter (vs. 31). He wanted Peter to prove his loyalty to Christ and expected him to fail. In verse 32, Jesus did not tell Peter to wage a campaign against the enemy. Instead, He prayed for Peter. He prayed that Peter would pass the test and then be able to strengthen his brothers. Peter didn't think he would ever deny knowing Christ. But, 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, "let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Jesus knew that Peter would fail this test, but he allowed Peter to go through it because He knew it would strengthen him in the long run and he could be an encouragement to others.

In Luke 22:62, Peter understood what had happened and how he had failed. Peter is now broken and sifted, and usable for the Lord. There are times that we need to be broken so we are less likely to fall. Peter repented of his sin as he realized he can not do things under his own strength.


Through MY CANCER JOURNEY, I also have been "sifted."
  • I have become  broken and empty before my Lord.
  • A change has been brought about that has drawn me closer to Him.
  • It has helped me to prove my loyalty to Christ.
  • It has taught me to say "no" to my fleshly desires, and focus on what God wants instead.
The journey is not over, and God is not finished with me yet. But, as I continue, I feel more confident in knowing that God causes ALL things to work together for good, to those who love HIM.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Goodbye Old Swingset

Last week, after realizing our kids have outgrown their swingset, we gave it away to another family to enjoy.  There is a time to keep, and a time to give away. This old swingset served its purpose in our lives, so it was finally time to say goodbye.  

Now, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic as I look back on old pictures of our kids on their swingset. I remember we bought it for $25.00 at a garage sale in October 2000 (13 years ago). Our daughter was 2 years old. She loved to swing, just as most kids do. Then, the years went by and our son took his turn as well.

As I think about it, I don't really care much about the swingset. It was getting old, needed some work done to it, and was kind of just in the way most of the time. What I do care about is the TIME we have spent watching our kids play, learn and grow. Oh, the sweet memories...

Here are a few pictures to share...

2000 - Putting the swing set together

2000 - EL, Age 2

EL - Age 5

JJ - Age 8 months
JJ - Age 5

EL - Age 12
JJ - Age 8

2012 - JJ, Age 9

Ecclesiastes 3:1 - There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing. A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I'm Taking A New Blood Thinning Medication

Good news..... Last week, I had another Doppler to check and see if my blood clots have dissolved. The results are mostly positive, as the larger clot in my subclavian vein seems to be gone. I have good blood flow in my arm and the swelling is gone!

There is, however, still a small clot in my jugular vein (in my neck). I had an appointment with my Oncologist yesterday, and he said I will still need to be on some sort of blood thinning medication for awhile. The Tamoxifen I am taking has a slight risk of causing blood clots, so there is a very good chance the clot will get worse if I don't take a blood thinner.

Instead of giving myself shots of Arixtra every day, we are trying a newer medication called XARELTO. It is a small pill, taken once a day, and I do not need to get regular blood work like those who take Coumadin/Warfarin. I am happy about that.

Another Doppler is not scheduled until two months from now; and I will see my doctor again one week after that.

Aside from the clot, my blood pressure was back down to normal yesterday, and I continue to improve with my energy level. The pain in my joints also seems to be improving, as well as the numbness in my fingers.

I am beginning to feel more like "myself" again.

God is good.

Monday, August 19, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Plastic Donuts by Jeff Anderson

Plastic Donuts is a small book with a big topic - the topic of financially giving to the Lord. In the book, the author shares some questions many of us have had regarding giving, such as:

  • What is the right amount to give?
  • Does the tithe still apply to today?
  • Is the first 10% required and everything else is a free will offering?
  • What should be our motivation for giving?
  • Does it even matter what we give as long as we have good hearts?

There has been plenty of debate about these questions, but the author shares how the instructions in the Bible focus more on the heart of the matter rather than following a specific set of rules. He gives a different perspective on giving, and has good insight into what makes our gifts acceptable to the Lord.

The author uses an illustration of the pleasure his little girl showed when she gave him a plastic donut and he took it at "ate" it. There are numerous times when I have played with little plastic donuts as a result of my children's pretend restaurant or kitchen. So, I understand what the author is saying. I recall the delight on my children's faces when they served the food to me and I would pretend to eat it. This type of pleasure seen in our children should be the same as when we give our gifts to the Lord. If we are genuinely pleased to give to Him, then He is genuinely pleased with our gift. This, in turn, brings us closer to the Lord in our relationship with Him.

It is a book worth picking up. To learn more, head over to

NOTE: I received this book free of charge from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

EL's 2nd MRI

Three weeks ago, I mentioned my daughter's MRI results, and said she would be going back for a 2nd MRI to get a closer look at two spots. (Note: In order to give her a "name" and make things easier as I write, she will be known as EL instead of just "my daughter"). The 2nd MRI was on August 9th. Things went well, overall, although EL woke up a lot grumpier this time than she did after the first one.

One week later (which was this past Friday), we finally received a call from the doctor regarding the results. This is what we currently know:

1.  The spot in the Pineal gland looks to be a fluid-filled cyst. It may or may not be causing any problems. Many people have cysts like this for years and don't ever know about it unless they have an MRI done for some unrelated reason.

2.  The Pituitary gland is enlarged, but they still do not know the cause of the enlargement.

3.  The good news is that both of these spots have not increased in size since the first MRI was done, so they are not growing (at least not very fast).

4.  The next step is to have her seen by two different specialists. One will be a Neurosurgeon, for an evaluation and opinion of the spots. The other is with an Endocrinologist who will check her hormone levels. If her hormone levels are high, that could be the cause for the Pituitary enlargement. If they are normal, then something else is the cause.

The appointments for these specialists have not been made yet, but we are going to try and get them made for the same day to save on time and travel. 

One thing "nice" about traveling to St. Louis for EL's appointments (we've had 3 so far), is that we have been able to spend some extra time with my parents. It has worked out for them to watch our son, JJ, with each trip we've made. I am grateful to them for their help and support.

As always, God is good.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Update on My Health - Prayers Are Working!

Today's doctor visit went well. The doc was running an hour and a half behind schedule, so the waiting was long, but we are used to that. He often runs behind, due to the way he takes time with his patients, including us. So, we just accept the fact that we will probably have to wait. Its the "price" for having a good doctor.

1.  The swelling in my arm is almost gone, which is a good sign the blood clot has dissolved or is almost dissolved. However, the doc wants me to continue with the Arixtra shots (a blood thinner) a little while longer, just to be "safe." In two weeks, I'll have another Doppler done to check the status of the clot. Then, I will see the doc again one week after that to discuss the results.

2.  My blood pressure was high today. It was also high 2 weeks ago when I was seeing the doc. Not sure what is causing that, but we will keep an eye on it.

3.  I have been having a lot of pain and stiffness in my joints for the past few weeks. The doc said it could still be a side effect of the chemo, or it could be a deficiency in Vitamin D. They drew blood on me to check my levels for that, and I will know the results in a couple of days.

4.  I am doing good on the Tamoxifen. I'm thankful for no major side effects so far.

5.  My hair has been growing back! Right now, it is very soft and seems to be a bit darker than it was previously, but we shall see what its like as it continues to grow.

Over all, I seem to be making progress with my health. I'm so glad for that. Thanks again for all the prayers. God is faithful.

Psalm 119:89-90 - Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations.

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:


Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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

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.