Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Update. 11/20/2017

I looked back and realized it has almost been one month since I last updated everyone- but as I've said before, no news is typically good news!

October FLEW by and here we are getting ready for Thanksgiving...and another upcoming MRI. 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays- from food, family, and, of course, a break from work!- how could you not love this time of year? 

Dad has been feeling well, and doing well! Y'all, the blessings have been shown to us in so many ways. I can't believe it's been over 4 years since we found out about Dad's diagnosis. 

But as thankful as we are, and as much as we look forward to another Thanksgiving with Dad, the upcoming MRI still lingers in my mind. 

For those of you that have experienced upcoming scans- you know the feeling I'm talking about. The gut-wrenching concern, anxiety and overall fear. And as I was looking at my calendar, I couldn't help but see the dreaded "MRI" drawn on a date. 

My heart sank. 

But I'm reminded once again about not fearing bad news. I'm reminded once again to live in the moment. 

"Trust Me, beloved. Every time you have an anxious, fearful thought, you need to take multiple looks at Me. Speak My Name to remind yourself I am near, ready to help you."

First, let me say that was NOT the devotional I read this morning or the one I planned to reference in this post, but I turned to that page on accident and starting typing those words- then realizing that's not the verse I wanted! Clearly, there is no accident in that at all! Those are words I SO badly needed to hear this morning, and in this VERY moment. Trust Me. 

But here is the devotional that really spoke to me this morning: 

"Let me teach you how to spend more of your time in the present. The future, as most people conceptualize it, does not really exist. When you gaze into your tomorrows, making predictions, you are simply exercising your imagination. I alone have access to what is "not yet" because I am not limited by time."

This whole anxiety and fear, and trusting, has been such a HUGE struggle for me these last 4 years. And it goes into so many aspects of your life, from planning trips (what if Dad isn't doing well?), to making sure you have cell phone service at all time (you know, just in case Dad has another seizure)...as if I didn't have anxiety to begin with, throw in cancer- and man, it's been a constant struggle.

But my prayer, and my focus, this Thanksgiving is to really focus on the present. To focus on friends & family, to focus on the time we have with one another, and to focus on how blessed we really are- regardless of the upcoming MRI. 

We wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving- and we ask for continued prayers at our upcoming MRI.

Thank you all, and thanks for helping us BTHO Brain Cancer!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Happy Birthday Mutz! 10/23/2017

Today we get to celebrate someone's birthday that has managed to hold this family together throughout the years- especially these last 4 years- and someone who has become everyone's favorite Mutz. 

Happy Birthday Mom!

I could go on and on about Mom- her dedication, her faith, her determination- but then my post would be pages and pages long, and Mom would call me to tell me how I give her too much credit. (Y'all, I NEVER give her too much credit- if anything she doesn't get enough credit)

She's selfless, she's hard headed (usually in a good way!), she's faithful, she's kind, and she's reliable. She goes out of her way to take care of her three girls, and now three grand babies. She does all the things for her grand babies that she would never allow us girls to do growing up- like eating m&ms before dinner, or staying up late to watch tv- or getting EVERY toy out to play with and making the house look like a tornado came through- and maybe my favorite, going overboard at Christmas to make sure the little ones LOVE that time of year. 

Yes, Mutz does it all. 

She's had to learn how to do a lot of things since Dad's diagnosis- as I remember so very clearly sitting in the hospital room on this day four years ago as we waited to get discharged with Dad. Sitting there trying to figure out exactly HOW we were going to do it all. Sitting there trying to figure out exactly HOW we would ever survive it all. Sitting there and looking at one another with a common understanding that we would have to rely on one another and lean on one another for  the daily strength to just get through it all. 

And she will deny it all- but she's the reason why we got through it all, and she's the reason why we survived it all with smiles on our faces and hope in our hearts. 

While we have no idea what the next days, months, and years will hold- the one thing we do know is that we can all handle anything together. That we can walk through some of the darkest of moments because Mom has been there to show us that through it all, through the moments of your deepest despair, there can be hope, and there can be light. 

Today we wish Mutz the happiest of birthdays, as we celebrate tonight with family, food, and lots of wine. Here's to many more birthdays Mutz!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Our 4 YEAR Cancer-versary! 10/5/2017

Today marks Dad's 4 YEAR Cancerversary. Y'all FOUR YEARS! 

Statistically, only 7% of Glioblastoma patients live to four years. We are so incredibly lucky. And we are so incredibly blessed. 

And as this day comes, it's hard to not take some time to think back on these last four years- four years that have been an absolute roller coaster, with lots of lows- but also some incredible highs. 

The day of Dad's seizure, the day of his first MRI result, the day of his surgery, those moments feel like they happened just yesterday- and then I think back to the blur that was the months that followed. The daily chemotherapy & radiation treatments, the alarms set all through the night for Dad to wake up to take his steroid medication, the countless nights where I slept on the couch "just in case" something happened, and the endless talks I had with the man upstairs- I sometimes wonder how we survived it all. 

And as much as that feels like just yesterday, it's hard to imagine it was in fact FOUR years ago. It's pretty incredible the amount of quality time we've been given, time that was not expected when we heard the word "cancer", time that we've learned to appreciate more than anyone could ever imagine, time that I'm so incredibly thankful we've been given.

When I think back to our devastation after Dad's diagnosis- our hearts filled with "what if" and "why us"- it's amazing to see how God has turned something so devastating, into something so inspirational. It's amazing how something like cancer could easily make you turn your back on Him, but instead gives you the opportunity to see Him work in the darkest of moments. It gives you the opportunity to witness miracles right before your eyes. It gives you the opportunity to grow in a way you never really imagined.

My devotional today was absolutely perfect for this day:

"When things around you or in the world seem to be spinning out of control, come to Me and pour out your heart. Instead of fretting and fuming, put your energy into praying...Don't dread bad news or let it spook you. Instead, keep your heart steadfast and calm through confident trust in Me."

We've continued to put our trust in Him, to guide us through this journey where we have no clue where it may take us, but knowing that throughout this journey we can be confident that He is with us always.

And as we've grown spiritually, we've also grown as a family. A cancer diagnosis where we were just a family of seven, and now, a family of 10! Dad has witness three grand babies come into our family- each with their own little personality, each that leave us wondering how we ever enjoyed life as much without them. 

We take each day ahead as just that, ONE day at a time. Enjoying the little moments, celebrating the big moments, and learning that throughout it all one thing remains the most important- family. 

Thank you all for being on this journey with us throughout Dad's brain cancer fight. We have been blessed with countless prayers and an amazing support system of friends & family- we could not have survived these last four years without you all.

Dad's next MRI isn't until after Thanksgiving, so until then we will continue on living and loving each day with Dad. Dad's last MRI showed no signs of tumor (REMISSION!) and he is still off of all his treatments- no chemotherapy or Avastin. Thank you all again, and thanks for helping us BTHO Brain Cancer! 


Congrats to Dad- a FOUR Year Brain Cancer Survivor!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Happy Birthday Lar! 8/18/2017

Today marks Dad's 63rd birthday, and 3 years & 10 months as a brain cancer survivor! Clearly we have A LOT to be celebrating!

Dad is still off of all treatments, as it's been one year since we decided to stop his chemotherapy- one amazing year of Dad not having to take those dreaded chemo pills that made him sick for weeks, one amazing year with MRIs that have shown no signs of cancer, and one amazing year celebrating each little moment in our lives. It's crazy to think when this whole journey started Dad was not yet a "Paw-Paw", and now he's got THREE little ones that he gets to spoil. 

Dad's cancer is unpredictable, and we are all too aware that at any moment Dad can show signs of growth or an MRI can show his tumor returning- but we are also all too aware of how LUCKY we are. It's something we do not take lightly, as we appreciate the little things, and celebrate Dad each chance we get. 

So as usual, here's my Birthday Letter to the best Daddy in the world. 

Dad, 

Today we celebrate your 63rd birthday. And on this day, I thought I would share with you my birthday wishes to you:

Dad, I wish for there to many more birthdays for us to celebrate- as Luke, Hallie & Reid have so much to learn from you as they get older. Don't worry, you can start the stories with "This one time your Aunt Stevie...", as I know I'm a good example of what NOT to do a lot of the time. 

Dad, I wish for you to try and grasp the true impact you've made on this crazy world- as your brain cancer fight has inspired so many others, especially me. 

Dad, I wish for you to know how proud we all are of you- through the most difficult times in your life,  you've managed to smile, push forward, and never complain. 

And Dad, my final wish is that you continue to enjoy each day- that you never let your cancer journey define you, instead take cancer as just a chapter in your amazing book of life. 

Wishing you many more birthdays!

Whitney

Y'all, as I write this letter I could have never imagined in October of 2013 getting to celebrate Dad's 63rd birthday- but this just proves that God's plan is so much bigger than cancer. It just proves that we serve a pretty amazing God, one that has "designed us to walk through this world in trusting dependence on Him. He lovingly go before us and opens up the way, carefully preparing the path we will follow. He removes many dangers and obstacles from the road ahead, and helps us handle the difficulties that remain."

Knowing that life is all too short, knowing that we are truly the lucky ones in this battle against cancer, knowing all these things makes birthdays just a little bit sweeter. Hugging Dad extra tight today, and celebrating him a little bit more on this special day. 



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Finding Purpose In Pain. 8/2/2017

"God promises us pain."

Words I keep trying to repeat over and over again. 

This week my heart has been so heavy with the news of two brain cancer fighters, both who lost their battle way too early. 

I was reconnected with one of these fighters just this year, in January to be exact, with a message that said, "I want to let you know that reading your blogs have really been helping a lot. Especially my parents."

Our conversations were fairly constant over these last months, reaching out to ask how treatments were going, letting her know our family was praying so very hard, and just being there to provide some sort of hope for her. 

And as much as I tried to constantly lift her spirits and provide her hope, it was really the complete opposite, as each and every conversation left me being reminded that God truly gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. Each conversation reminded me that faith can truly be bigger than any fear. 

Her words spoke volumes of her attitude, strength and faith, as here are just a few words from our conversations over the last few months:

"I have been blessed with amazing doctors, my family and friends have been so amazing through everything."

"Things are going well other than that. Trying to stay healthy and find joy in the little things...It's great to hear that your dad is doing SO well!..."

"We are all gonna beat it together! And your family has, and will continue, to be in our prayers as well!"

Each time, each conversation had me thinking- wow, I hope a little bit of her strength, her faith, and her will to fight rubs off on me so I can help Dad through his battle.  

You know, so many people go through this world- living day by day, not truly understanding how important each and every moment really is, never really making a great impact on this world. And yet, here was this young lady, making such a HUGE impact in her short time here. Impacting others through her fight.

Matt Chandler, a pastor in Dallas and a brain cancer survivor, has said "Suffering. Difficulty. It should surprise no one." And while this is true, I just wish it didn't hurt so bad. 

Asking for a few extra prayers as two families battle through the suffering after the fight is over- the suffering of losing their loved one to this terrible disease. We continue to hope and pray for a cure so no family has to experience the pain of losing someone to cancer. 

I'll be hugging Dad a little bit tighter, and I'll make sure I soak up those precious moments with him a little bit more- I'm once again reminded that life is all too short. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

4 Month MRI Update. 7/26/2017

It's been 4 months since our last MRI. 4 months?!? 

We were spending hours at the Cancer Clinic every two weeks for Avastin treatment and appointments with Dr. Fleener- I have joked before that the Cancer Clinic became our second home- And now, it's been weird not being there for 4 months. 

Dad's MRI was GREAT! He is still considered to be in remission, as there is no sign of tumor or any indication that the cancer is back. Y'all, God is very good. 

My devotional today was just perfect, as when I'm asked what is our "secret" to Dad's success- my response is always our faith and the amazing power of prayer. 

(Oh, and the countless people supporting us on this journey- friends and family, y'all have been AMAZING!)

"I broaden the path beneath you so that your ankles do not turn. This shows how intricately I am involved in your life-journey. I know exactly what is before you, and I can alter the path ahead of you to make your way easier. Sometimes I enable you to see what I have done on your behalf...My work to widen the way before you demonstrates how lovingly I am involved in your life...From your perspective, My workings are often mysterious. I do not protect you- or anyone- from all adversities...you will never have to suffer alone. I have promised: I am with you always!"

And with us always He has been. 

Dad will have another MRI in 4 months, which should fall after Thanksgiving. So between now and then we have lots to celebrate- Dad's birthday is coming up in August and his 4 year cancer-versary in October. 

Y'all, we are coming up on 4 years! How crazy!

I truly never thought we would have this much time with Dad, as we were given those same scary statistics that all glioblastoma patients get- but it is clear that God is using Dad for a much greater purpose than we could all ever imagine here on Earth. 

I can't even begin to count the number of MRI's Dad has had over these last (almost!) 4 years, but what doesn't change for each MRI is the gut-wrenching feeling I get while waiting for those results. Scan-anxiety is such a real thing, as you wait for those words from the doctor- words that could make life change in an instant. 

We realize we are some of the "lucky ones" when it comes to this beast of glioblastoma, and that's something we do not take lightly. We continue to support brain cancer research, bring awareness to a disease that has so little funding and research, and provide HOPE to others with this diagnosis. 

We can't thank you all enough for continuing to love, support, and pray for us throughout this journey. We wouldn't have survived it all without friends and family throughout each step of the way.

We've had good MRI's, and we've had bad MRI's, but one thing that remains constant is Dad's unbelievable strength, determination, and faith in this journey- cancer truly met his match when it tried to get to Dad. 

Thank you all again, and thanks for helping us BTHO Brain Cancer!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A New Diagnosis. My Advice.

Recently, it seems as though I've received the same message from friends:

"Someone I know just got diagnosed with brain cancer, the same type as your dad. Could I give them your contact information if they want to talk?"

And as you all can imagine, my heart breaks to see this message and it's always no questions asked if they can have my contact information- I give my email, my cell phone, my address- heck come visit me at my house! Because during those first few weeks of Dad's diagnosis, we would have given anything to have someone to talk to, to help figure out what we should do next. 

But because I know others are not nearly as open as we have been, some have such a hard time talking about a new diagnosis- chemotherapy, radiation, MRI's, (and let's not forget) the horrible results when you google "glioblastoma" or even "brain cancer"- I thought I would share some advice I would give to anyone newly diagnosed. 

My first piece of advice- do NOT google "Glioblastoma". The internet is filled with a lot of information- and I've used the internet as a great resource for treatments for Dad, but it took me a very long time after his diagnosis to actually google "glioblastoma", and I'm so glad I didn't right away. In a time where you may feel so incredibly discouraged by a cancer diagnosis, I encourage you to instead look to those who have BEAT this disease as a source of HOPE. You'll find that many who are long term survivors are so busy LIVING that they don't have time to post anything negative on the internet. 

My next piece of advice, lean on your faith or find your faith. This advice is so much easier to write than it is to live sometimes, as my faith was truly tested when Dad was diagnosed. I struggled with the "why us?", and "how could You do something so bad to MY Dad?"- but, if you've read my blog before, you know that these questions filled with hate, turned into prayers filled with thankfulness and love. I can't imagine this journey without my faith- knowing that walking hand in hand with me is this amazing God that is SO much bigger than this cancer. 

Another piece of advice, find a doctor you trust 100%. From the moment Dr. Fleener walked into Dad's ICU room, we knew she was OUR doctor. I know enough about upcoming treatments to understand some of the options Dr. Fleener discusses with us during appointments, but we lean on her to guide us through Dad's cancer journey. Again, the internet is a great resource, but having a great doctor is an even better resource. Find someone you're comfortable with, because you'll be sharing all sorts of things with them that you didn't even know could be a side effect of treatment and radiation. 

And my final BIG piece of advice- take it all ONE day at a time (heck, there were some days that we took it just 5 minutes at a time). Because there will be really good days in your cancer journey, and there will be some truly bad days- but the good will out weigh the bad, this I can promise you. Find a support system to help you take it all one day at a time, and continue to LIVE. My mom always says, "We will not wait to die, we will continue to live." and she takes that to heart each and every day. 

As one of my favorite devotional reads: 
"Follow me one step at a time. That is all I require of you. You see huge mountains looming, and you start wondering how you're going to scale those heights...But you don't know what will happen today, much less tomorrow...If I do lead you up cliffs, I will equip you thoroughly for the strenuous climb. Walk by faith, not by sight."

For those who have been recently diagnosed, know that on this journey you are not alone, as you've got lots of other brain cancer families that have walked this path before you and are here for you to lean on, cry with, and be a support system of those that just get it. 

The chemotherapy sucks. The radiation sucks. The Avastin sucks. And the medical bills all suck. But I promise there is so much GOOD in this journey, GOOD that far outweighs the bad- and sometimes you don't have to look that hard to see it all. 

You'll find family and friends that go above and beyond, you'll even find strangers doing the same- reminding you that throughout some of our most difficult times, we do have something to be thankful for. 

Continue fighting through this journey, remember that one bad MRI is not defining of your cancer journey, and never give up the HOPE for a cure.