Friday, December 30, 2016

My Two Words

It's time to pick my word for 2017... Last year I tried to focus on the word SIMPLIFY. I wanted to simplify my commitments and my stuff. I'd say it was probably the most successful year as far as sticking to my resolutions and goals. No, I wasn't perfect, but I was mindful and purposeful. I mean, I used a scrapbooking app (Project Life) and documented EVERY week this whole year! WHAT!!! Of course, I still need to get them printed...

My main resolution was to quit saying yes to things out of obligation or guilt. I think I did pretty well. I did not take on anything new that required me to be in charge. I did not join every activity that presented itself to me. And I was able to say no when I didn't feel like it was the best yes! Talk about freeing!!!

My other resolution was to simplify my stuff. Baby steps, right! I've done some but still have a lot of decluttering to do. Both of these resolutions will carry over to 2017!

I had also set some goals for the year in the areas of Faith, Family, Finance, and Fitness. I posted my Sweet 16 for 2016 goals on my bathroom mirror - which really kept me reminded of what I wanted to accomplish. It takes determination and discipline - neither are easy for me - but I stuck to it pretty well. I have tweaked those goals for 2017 and will keep plugging along!

So now a word to keep me focused and motivated for the new year is actually two words:

One thing my cancer journey is teaching me is that life is to be LIVED! It's okay to step out of my comfort zone and experience new things. It's okay to have fun. It's okay to get rid of obligation and guilt. It's okay to dream BIG.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

~ Ephesians 3:20 NLT 

It's time to come alive and live life filled with the Holy Spirit - to be a soul on fire with the breath of God giving life to my dry bones!

As we call out to dry bones 
come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts 
come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones 
come alive

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Talk About Our Walk

Earlier this month Daryl and I represented TEAM TERRI at the Tulsa Light the Night Walk awards dinner. The top 5 Corporate, Friends & Family, and Individual fundraisers were recognized with a framed team picture taken at the Walk. TEAM TERRI was the #4 Friends & Family team for the Tulsa Walk!!! WOO HOO!!!

When I gave our RSVP for the dinner, the coordinator asked if I would share about why we walk, how we raise funds, and what we appreciate about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I was honored, and this is what I wrote to help me keep my thoughts straight!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

We participate in the Light the Night Walk because blood cancer is now a part of our lives. Four years ago this Christmas, my mom noticed a lump near my collar bone. After several doctor visits, tests, biopsies, and then surgery, I was diagnosed with two types of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma and Follicular Lymphoma. I had six rounds of R-CHOP and am doing well.

At my chemo orientation, the nurse practitioner mentioned the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Since the only thing I knew about lymphoma was that my husband’s grandma died from it over 20 years ago, I was thankful for a reputable organization dedicated to blood cancer. As you know, the internet can be super scary when googling for information, so I tried to stick to LLS as my main resource.

I also took advantage of their Co-Pay Assistance program. When my doctor visits require a 150 mile round trip to Tulsa, being reimbursed for my co-pays is a big help! And I love that LLS has a very involved advocacy program that keeps us updated and provides the information so all we usually have to do is click a link!

At the end of my treatment, I was searching for ways to give back and be involved in awareness efforts. I found information about the Light the Night Walk and knew we had to do it. I appreciate that it’s more intimate than a 5K race – which we’ve also done – and that my whole family can participate with me. TEAM TERRI isn’t huge – it’s just my family – so the Walk is a great way for us to celebrate together and have a meaningful time to reflect on our journey and know that our fundraising is helping others. I love the white lantern and survivor shirt. I love that my husband and kids are recognized with red lanterns as supporters. And I love that my mother-in-law can carry a yellow lantern in memory of her mother. And this year, my father-in-law joined us with a white lantern for his battle with multiple myeloma.

I’m especially proud to be associated with an organization that gives 74% towards research and patient services! Not very many organizations can say that – especially some of the really well-known ones…

Fundraising is a little tricky for us. We live out in the country and work at a non-profit ministry, so we don’t really have the opportunity to use our workplace as a fundraising venue. I keep a “Coins for a Cure” can on my desk year round and had close to $50 by the time of the walk. In the spring I have a garage sale and use the money as a Kick-Off to our TEAM TERRI fundraising. The majority of our fundraising comes from friends and family. I use Facebook as my platform for requesting donations and take advantage of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month. I make sure our Light the Night pages are set up and ready to go by August and then in September post something daily about blood cancer and our walk and include our TEAM TERRI link. It’s great that LLS already has graphics to use – plus my husband is a graphic designer and makes me lots of stuff! I post all year long to keep focus on blood cancer and finding a CURE!

I’m thankful to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for their information and resources, their patient services and co-pay assistance, their advocacy on behalf of blood cancer patients, and especially for funding RESEARCH which is developing new treatments that are saving lives and will someday lead to a CURE! The statistics now compared to 40 years ago are amazing, and I’m thankful to be one of the new numbers! THANK YOU!

Official "team" picture at the Walk
We're on our way to the Walk
Two of my kiddos
Showing off our SURVIVOR shirts
My Sweetie and biggest cheerleader
The beginning of the Walk

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Jessika's Heart

I've prayed God would be real to my kids, and He answered! My daughter had an assignment to write about a significant event in her life. I'm very proud of her courage to share from her heart... with her class... and on my blog! She has become one of my biggest encouragers!

The Year that Changed Everything…
Jessika Williams
            It was Christmas Eve 2013. I was just 15 years old. My family and I were at my grandma’s house for Christmas just like every year, opening presents, eating sugar cookies, and watching cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies. We had to head back home that day after presents and Christmas dinner with the family. Before we left my grandma asked my mom what that lump was on her neck. “What is that, Terri?” she asked, pointing to my mom’s neck.
            “What?” my mom asked confused. She put her hand up to her throat and felt a lump. “That’s weird… I’ve never noticed that.”
            “You should probably get that checked out. It could be a swollen lymph node,” my Grandma said matter-of-factly.
            I never thought too much about the lump on my mom’s neck. I knew it couldn’t be anything serious because nothing serious could happen to my family. It wasn’t until later that I realized how wrong I was…
            In the early days of January, my mom went to the doctor for tests and scans of her neck. It felt like weeks before we finally got the news that changed everything. Cancer. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that infects the lymph nodes all over your body.
            My stomach dropped. I barely remember my parents actually telling me that it was cancer. The whole thing was such a blur. My mom has cancer, I thought to myself in disbelief. She started chemotherapy almost immediately after getting diagnosed. It all happened so fast, but in a way, it felt like time was agonizingly slow.
            I had a lot of resentment in the beginning of this never-ending journey, mostly towards God. My family had always gone to church, always been Christians, and I was angry with God for letting this happen to my mom. This is what we get for following you? I asked Him. I hated Him for a long time because he gave my mom cancer.
            I felt like I was in a bad dream. A dream I could not wake my self up from no matter how hard I tried. At school I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me - my teachers, my friends. It’s like everyone was waiting for me to have a nervous breakdown. I acted out in school and almost twice a week or more I was getting sent to the principal’s office for talking in class and being disrespectful. I just didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about school, my grades, how I treated others… I was so full of resentment and sadness.
            My mom was amazing through it all. She had chemo all the time, but still went to work and put on a smile everyday no matter how tired and sick she was feeling. That’s just the kind of person my mom is. She never made us feel scared, and she never resented God. Seeing her become closer to God, when he allowed her to have cancer, amazed me. My dad was just the same. He stepped up and took care of my mom and us kids, and that strengthened our relationships with him. Looking at how they dealt with it made me realize I was reacting in all the wrong ways. I saw that I needed to be there for my parents and siblings and be an encourager rather than a discourager.
            Though I felt a change needed to happen, it took me a long time to even pick up my Bible again. Once I finally did, I found peace. My anger with God began to fade and my relationship with him and my parents grew stronger because of the cancer.
            In a way, I’m thankful for the cancer because it brought something other than just pain and sickness. It brought me a new understanding of love and life. It taught me to cherish every moment I have on this earth and with the people in my life. It brought me closer to my parents and God and it strengthened those relationships. Cancer showed me who my true friends were that would stand by me through the tears and through the happiness.
            Life always brings things we don’t expect. I never thought my family would be troubled with something as awful as cancer, but here we are. Three years later and still working through it. My mom truly is my hero and I’m grateful to have shared our story.

Special encouragement for scan day!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Life is Messy, but God is GOOD!

Do you ever just feel like throwing up your hands and saying life stinks?!?! People and relationships can get so messy. And life messes are incredibly hard... maybe even harder than cancer! With cancer, everyone is united against the same ugly disease. With people... everyone is not always on the same page. That's when life can get messy.

In the middle of the mess, it's so easy to whine and question WHY??? Sometimes it would be easier to keep the peace rather than stick to convictions. And it's difficult to navigate the range of emotions and to think rationally through the heartache and tears.

Thankfully, God is good, heals broken hearts, and restores broken relationships!

We've recently experienced some tough growing pains as parents. We've had to humbly acknowledge during this messy time of life that until you've walked in someone's shoes, don't judge. It's easy to look at others and say, "We wouldn't do it that way." And believe me, we've said that many times! But chances are, you don't know all the details, and you don't know how you'd react. We now better understand the truth of John Bradford's words ~ There but for the grace of God, go I.

We're blessed with friends who have walked in similar shoes and are willing to come along beside us with wise counsel, encouragement, and prayers. They have poured into us in ways we didn't expect - but so needed - and have pointed us to the goodness of God.

So we're holding tight to the truth that God is good - all the time!

When we don't have words to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes...  
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. ~ Romans 8:26
When we can't see past the present pain, God is preparing the good...
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28
When we wonder why things are happening like they are, God is making us more like Jesus...
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son... ~ Romans 8:29
God is faithful and has already started the healing process. We will move forward striving to honor HIM in our relationships... our words... our actions. It will take time... but even when life is messy, GOD IS GOOD!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Three Years!

This week was another CT scan and follow up with my oncologist. It's been almost three years since finishing treatment for my lymphoma - THREE YEARS!!!

In those three years my oncologist's office has moved, my original doctor left, and the practice has changed names. For someone who is comfortable with the familiar, these have been big changes! But one good thing with the name change and partnering with St. John Hospital and MD Anderson is that I can now have my scans done AT Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute (formerly Tulsa Cancer Institute) and insurance will approve it!

So this week was a familiar scan (how many have I had???) but at a new place. Every place does their stuff differently, and that always adds a little stress to an already somewhat stressful situation. This was the first time my port was accessed for the contrast IV (which everyone should experience at least once). No biggie, but the tape they used to keep everything in place from the lab to radiology was too tight and I couldn't even stand up straight without my port digging into whatever muscle it's on.

The nurse brought out TWO big styrofoam cups of a delicious somewhat nasty liquid to drink - one right then and one about 15 minutes later. I asked her to fix the tape on my port... right in the middle of the waiting room... but I didn't care. It was nice to move without pain!!!

I waited at least 30 minutes before getting called back for the scan. That's a lot of time to get worked up and start freaking out about what they might find. I got the shakes and couldn't stop. Poor Daryl was getting worried about me. I kept quoting my mantra:

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord; whose confidence is in him. - Jeremiah 17:7

And even added the next two verse:

He will be like a tree planted by the water 
that sends out its roots by the stream. 
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit. - Jeremiah 17:8-9

The CT scan itself was fairly routine. I wore a shirt with a design of metal accents so had to change into a gown. Who knew just figuring out what to wear would be such a big deal. It needs to be fairly warm (the clinic is on the cool side) with a neck line that allows easy access to my port, and no metal for a scan. And it also needs to be cute so I feel good, right!

Since I had the scan at the clinic in the morning, we left for lunch and a little shopping before going back in the afternoon to get the results from my oncologist. That waiting... it's a big part of the journey, but still not fun. I'm not sure it gets easier, but hopefully we're wiser!

RESULTS ARE GOOD!!! No changes or signs of enlarged lymph nodes!!! Bloodwork showed elevated liver enzymes, but my liver was clear on the scan, so Dr. Taylor isn't concerned. My alkaline phosphatase was below normal which is related to my bone density and osteopenia. He said to keep taking the Prolia shots! Everything else was pretty much perfect!

I've graduated to seeing my oncologist every six months! I'll have one more yearly scan to check a spot that is unchanged from last year and is probably scar tissue. If next year's scan is unchanged, I won't need one every year. We even talked about taking out my port... except the follicular lymphoma dictates it stays. In fact, my doctor said something like this: Oh yeah, you also have the follicular. The diffuse large B cell is probably cured. The follicular will probably come back, so the port stays.

That's the update! Scan in one year, visit to oncologist with blood work every six months, keep the port and have it flushed every two months. Works for me! 

Thank you to all who continue to pray for us!!! You helped us get through an emotionally draining day!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Jarod's Sweet Perspective

As I reflect back on the beginning of this journey three years ago, I'm reminded of many blessings. My kids have been a great support and encouragement to me! I want to share a sweet paper my son wrote for school that summarizes several events and conversations. He was 12 at the time of my diagnosis
“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!”  I heard as I stretched out my arm to turn off my alarm. Better get ready to go to Grandma’s house, I thought to myself. I slowly got out of bed and got all my things I needed to go to my grandma’s house for a week. After all of my family and I got everything we needed packed into our van, we set off for my grandma’s.
After a four hour car trip, which felt like ten hours, we finally made it. It wasn’t that bad of a trip; it was pretty nice actually, until my grandma pointed out something on my mom’s neck during dinner.
“It looks like you got a bump or something on your neck, Terri,” She said.  “What is it?’
“I don’t know. Do you guys see anything?”  She asked around the table.
“No, I don’t,” I told her.  At least, at the time I didn’t. As the trip went on, the more my grandma was talking about it, the more noticeable it became. My grandma kept going on and on about it, until my mom finally decided to get it checked at the doctor after we got back home. 
My mom and dad went to the doctor after her surgery to find out about the bump on her neck.  At the time I wasn’t worried. I figured if it was anything, it would be something small like some weird thing for the flu, but it wasn’t. When my parents got back from the doctor, they called my three sisters and me out to the living room and told us the bad news, that my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It hit my sisters and me pretty hard, but we tried not to show it, not wanting to make things worse for my dad because we could tell it hit him the hardest.
After we got the news things were really strange and different. Because of the medicine and chemo my mom was taking she couldn’t get any germs. Every time we went outside, shook hands with someone, or touched anything really, we had to use Germ-X and make sure our hands were germ free. My mom also had to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer wherever she went.   
The chemo she was taking also made all her hair fall out so she had to get a wig. The whole family went with my mom to go help her pick out her wig. I don’t know if I was having trouble accepting the fact my mom got cancer or fathoming it, but when we were at the wig store is when everything really hit me. I don’t completely know what happened, but I just sort of broke down and started crying.  
My family knew before the wig store that I was having a hard time with everything, but they didn’t know I was taking it as hard as I was. It didn’t help when everyone would come up to me and try to tell me everything would be okay, not even when my parents told me that because if they were being honest, they didn’t know. The only thing that I or anyone could do that really helped was to pray, and that’s something I did a lot of.
I spent a lot of my time in my room the next couple of weeks thinking and praying about everything that was going on, while my parents spent a lot of their time making sure my sisters and I were okay when they weren’t at the doctor’s office. After my parents got back from their second doctor’s appointment, my mom came in to tell me about what her doctor said.
“Hey Jarod. Whacha doing?” she asked me.
“Oh, nothing, just some homework. How was your doctor’s appointment?’
“It was fine, but I wanted to tell you about what the doctor said about the cancer I have.”
“Oh, okay what?”
“Well it turns out I have two types of lymphoma. And I don’t have the worst type of lymphoma there is, but one type of cancer that can’t completely be cured.”
“So it will just lay dormant in you your whole life?” I asked with a confused face.
“Well, it won’t necessarily be dormant. It has a chance of coming back.”
“SO WHAT’S THE POINT OF EVEN HAVING MEDICINE IF IT WON’T CURE THE CANCER!?!” I shouted while tears were building up in my eyes.
“Because the medicine will help, and it doesn’t have a high chance of coming back after the medicine,” my mom told me while tears were building up in her eyes as well. At that point I didn’t know what to say, so I just laid down on my bed and cried. My mom stood in the middle of my room and slowly walked out.
It took a couple of days to realize that it was stupid of me to be mad, so I went to my mom and just said that I was sorry and walked away. I went to my room and thought for a bit about how things are going to be now that my mom has cancer and how just life was going to be.
            “God,” I said at the brink of tears. “You know that these last few weeks have been the hardest weeks I have ever had in my life, and even though this whole, I don’t know, thing or chapter of my life, I don’t know…  Even though it has been very hard, I can see, I-I know, there has been good in it as well. If this whole whatever never happened, I wouldn’t be as close to my family as I am now. I wouldn’t be as close to You as I am now, and as I said before it has been very hard, but I would not trade this experience for anything. So with all that said um, I just wanted thank you. Um, uh, I’m not saying I’m happy my mom got cancer, I’m saying I’m thankful for all of the good that came from this.”
            “Jarod,” my mom said as she slowly opened my door. “I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay.”
           “Yeah, I’m doing okay. I’m sorry I’ve been giving you a hard time lately, it’s just been kinda hard adjusting, well more like accepting, everything that’s happened these last few weeks.”
            “It’s okay. I know you’ve been having a tough time. It’s been a tough time for everyone. This is just a part of life we have to get use to now.”
            “Yeah…  okay.” She then made her way to the door. “Mom,” I called out.
            “So, you said the type of cancer you have, it’ll never completely be out of you, right?”
            “Hmm okay, that’s what I thought,” I said as she walked out of the room and closed the door. I sat on my bed for a little bit. I wasn’t thinking or praying, just sitting. And then I said, “Amen.”

November 2012 - two months before diagnosis

Thursday, January 7, 2016

One Word

It's just one word, but how do you pick just one word for a whole year? I tried it last year and did pretty well focusing on it and trying to blog something each week... until I went on vacation.

So the past few days I've been searching for a word.

I've set some goals for the year that involve my Faith, Family, Fitness, and Finances. I had no problem coming up with those words! Anyway, as I was writing down some goals, I had to admit I don't always follow through with things. Just ask my family! Or look at my scrapbooks! 

I still haven't finished an on-line class I started this past summer (I have a year to finish, and I'm sure I'll take that long). I started exercising regularly... for a few weeks. I don't think I've ever completed every lesson in a Bible study. You get the idea.

Obviously I need help with follow through, but that's two words...

In the middle of reflecting on my bad habits and thinking about working on good ones, I've been rearranging and organizing all my stamping and scrapping stash. One daughter moved back home this semester to save some money. Since I had pretty much taken over her room, I'm trying to clear out my stuff and give her back her space. While I was trying to find just the right spot for it all, I thought of the word simplify

It would sooooo help me, if I could simplify my life - mostly my THINGS! I would have less mess which would require less cleaning, less organizing, and less frustration. I would have more time to spend working on my goals! In fact, simplifying my life would probably help me follow through with things!!!

Then a friend shared a video to Lauren Daigle's song, First, with this post: 
Whether you are planning your year, month, week, or day, consider seeking God first. Jeremiah 29:13 tells us, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."
I just found my word - FIRST!