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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Just Faith Please

Andrea's cancer and it's outcome can not be a litmus test for God's love. In other words I can not hang my faith on the outcome of this trial. The litmus test of my faith Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This is how I know God loves me, it is not if God gives me something in this life. This is an easy concept when we talk about getting a new car, house, job, or something material. But it is harder when you start talking about life and death.

But God word says Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." Obviously Andrea living is the desire of my heart.
How does this all fit together? How does Andrea having cancer fit into all this? How would losing Andrea fit in?
There are days I relate to Jesus in the Garden as He struggled with going to the cross, but for me my time in the garden has just taken four years and I don't think I have left yet. I still pray and try to utter the words, "Not my will but yours."

Andrea and I trust God no matter the outcome of this cancer. Whether my last entry into this journal is Andrea's healing or her death we trust God. We trust God to give us all we need in either outcome. Trust me I have written both this entries in my mind many many times. I have laid awake at night or awoke early in the morning thinking what I would do the moment after I kissed Andrea goodbye. I have walked down that path and thought what would life be like far to many times. I have also, on occasion, thought through the moment a doctor says, there is no evidence of disease, or NEOD as Andrea and I call it.

Having come to a point where I can say, "Not my will but yours," is not a giving up on my ability to ask and believe for Andrea's healing. I believe God still allows me to come before Him and lay my requests down. I just can't come before God and say, "Either you heal Andrea or I do not believe." I can't make my desire a demand as if I drawing a line in the sand and telling God you are either with me or against me based on whether Andrea lives or dies.

That does not mean that I don't struggle with all this.

I will be honest with you. I usually don't share these thoughts but I will today because I want you to know this is not a cake walk for me and my faith. I struggle daily with my desires and my trust in God.

There are two things I dread. One is the grief of losing Andrea the other is the suffering cancer brings.

Of course the thought of losing Andrea weighs on me. There was one moment I will never forget. I'm not sure what it meant but I will never forget it. It was January 2007, Andrea had just been released from ICU. We walked into her new room on the hospital's 7th floor. It was a great moment, I shut the door and we were alone for the first time in 4 days. The previous four days were the hardest days I had gone through. I was brought to the edge of everything I dreaded and the grief that I knew would follow. But for now it was over. I put Andrea in the chair by the window so she could enjoy the beautiful blue sky and feel the sun on her back. As I tucked a pillow in behind her I happened to look out the window which overlooked the back of the hospital. As I did I watched a Hearst backing in. I knew it was there to pick up someone who had passed away. Some family was experiencing what I dreaded. I felt sorrow for them. I will never forget that moment as I looked out the window over Andrea and knew how close we were to that being us.

The other thing I dread is the pain and suffering of cancers last days. To know my wife will suffer is hard for me to take. To see her hurt and struggle is without a doubt the most difficult part of this trial. So far we have always had a hope of healing and the suffering and the struggle have been bearable because they have been relatively short in duration. It is when cancer makes its final push, when you know the outcome and only wait for cancer to do its ugly work, that is the time I dread. I was reminded of this every time we drove to Andrea's doctor's office in North Carolina. There on the right side of the road was Hospice. Every time we approached it I would try to look the other way but I always seemed to stare at that sign. My eyes drawn to it while my mind was screaming look the other way. But life constantly reminds me of the battle. Andrea's battle to maintain her weight, the constant noise of the oxygen machine in the house, the 50 foot hose that tethers Andrea to the machine. I hate it, coming home and seeing where the hose leads to find Andrea. Having to carry the oxygen bottle everywhere we go, like a leash. It always seems to get tangled or we trip on the hose, it is just a cruel reminder of cancer. Everything is a reminder of cancer. The 15 pill bottles on the bathroom counter, the bloody noses, the nausea and vomiting, making Andrea milk shakes before bed to try to gain weight, and the constant aches and pains in Andrea's body. They are all reminders of the battle and everyday I look for strength from God to look past it all and trust Him. There is never a day where we don't fight the battle, never a day where you don't think about it.

These are my worst fears, and what I struggle with each day, all day, only to be relived by the busyness of work, or when Andrea has a "good" day but mostly when God gives me strength to look past it all and just enjoy life. Those are the good days.

But in all this God asks us to trust Him with an unconditional trust. Not outcome based, not tied to any desire, just trust. And praise God He is faithful to give us the strength we need to make it through all this. Because we always have hope. Cancer cannot take away the hope we have in Christ. Cancer's battlefield is physical. It may in fact win this battle, but it has already lost the war. Of course I don't rejoice in being in the battle. I wish we could be spared all this. But this is where we are at, this is our battle. This is where we must trust our creator. The battlefield is your mind. In your choices you make every day, countless times a day.

And this is where you have to be careful. When life is difficult or you don't understand why something is happening. We all go through this. This is not unique to our battle with cancer. It is not reserved for life and death. We all will face difficulties and we will all face this choice. You can not focus on what life was or what you wish it was in a trail. I mean that you can't try to escape the battle by wishing it was not there. If I sit down and think how life is unfair I will be lost in despair in a second. Be careful because this is so easy to do. For me it is easy to look at others living their life, to see other couples waking fast, laughing and think why us. To see another woman with long hair and think why Andrea. To think others somehow deserve this more then Andrea. Those thoughts will never bring happiness or relief from the trial. This is where you are. For us stopping the car on the side of the road for Andrea to vomit, having to buy scarves, constant trips to doctors, this is where we are. That is life for us. That is normal. I can't compare and covet what others have. Those around us are having their own struggles, our struggle just happens to be more open.

This is where we are and by the grace of God I have been able to accept our trial and not think, "What if," or "Why us." Those words lead down a path you never want to take when life becomes difficult. They may seem to offer relief, but they are wrapped in self pity and self destruction.

I can tell you when the battle is beyond yourself no amount of will power or determination will get you through it. I do not possess the ability to win this fight alone. Thankfully I am not alone. God has proven Himself so faithful and the definition of faith is not healing, or removing the trial. God is faithful to be our strength when we are weak, to calm our fears when we are shaking. The Bible is full of encouragement and hope. It takes your eyes and your mind off this world and helps you focus on things far greater then yourself. To see your trial in context. What seems so overwhelming will soon seem insignificant to you.

Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Does this take away the grief of losing Andrea? Of course not, Jesus grieved. Are we to assume we are somehow immune from grief. That the promises spoken in the Psalms infer we will not suffer or grieve. No I think it says just the opposite. This psalm would never have to be written if our lives were free from trials. Why would we ever need to read "Where does my help come from?" There are countless examples in the Bible of God's faithfulness. I read once that the most common phrase in the Bible is "Fear not." I don't know if that is a fact but I could believe it.

Life can be hard but God is faithful. Life can throw all sorts of difficulty at us, but God is our shield. Life can take away, but God gives. Life can bring fear, but God brings peace. Life can cause us worry, but God gives us joy.

Deuteronomy 33:29
He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places. "

2 Samuel 22:3
My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior from violent men you save me

2 Samuel 22:31
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 3:3
But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.

Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 33:20
We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.

The Bible never hides the fact that life is a battle, and daily we must be ready. No matter how hard we try to have an easy life, it just won't happen. Faith is forged in the fires of your trials. A life without difficulty is a life without faith. Wishing difficulties away or trying to hide for our struggles will only leave ourselves unprotected, unprepared and easily overwhelmed. Please don't look at us as say, "I'm glad I'm not Jim and Andrea." Instead look at us and know if life has not already challenged you and what you believe it will, and God and His word is the strength and protection you need when life becomes more then you can handle.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Friend in Need

There is an interesting dynamic that occurs in a oncologist office. People whose lives normally never cross paths are suddenly thrown together. There is no separation of classes, race, or religion. Your job and bank account are of no value when you step into the doctors office. Here life's playing field is leveled, life accomplishments are left outside the door. All you bring is your faith and the relationships of those closest to you.

After four years of this I feel I now have the awareness to look beyond myself and see those around me who are experiencing what we have already faced. God has given us this unique opportunity in our life. I know there are not many people with over four years of experience in the chemo room. Truthfully, you are finished by now one or the other .

Last Thursday at treatment God gave me an chance to help someone who had suddenly found themselves in the insanity of the oncologist waiting room. One day life seems certain, future plans are being made and life annoyances are over exaggerated beyond the level of importance they deserve. Then in a second your world is turned upside down what was important the day before is lost in the sea of confusion and despair. You feel as if life has punched you in the gut and you can't catch your breath, but at the same time you are thrown into the ocean.

Andrea and I arrived at 8am for chemo trying to fit in the 3 hour drip time before my one o'clock meeting. Andrea finished her weigh in and blood pressure check and we took our seats awaiting Andrea's named to be called as the days patients soon began to filter in. Soon Andrea was summoned back to have her port accessed. This first step in the chemo process takes place in a separate room and involves a technician inserting the IV needle in the port installed under Andrea's skin. This saves her veins from being damaged by the chemo. Andrea was soon seated in the chemo room and I went back to the waiting room to pick up her bag. As I did a woman seating there with worry in her eyes said hello. I returned the hello but felt I needed to take a seat next to her. We struck up a conversation. I learned her husband had found out he had cancer and was given a poor diagnoses.

As we talked I saw a woman who was deeply in love with her husband with a son close to my age. I could have passed her countless times on the street and would have never gone beyond a simple hello. Yet here we were both sharing our deepest fears and feelings. As I listened to her story, I could feel the pain and emotion in her words. I had felt the exact same pain, and fears and there are days that I still do. That is the reality of dealing with cancer you never fully get away from its effect on your life. The despair of dealing with someone telling you your spouse is going to die is something I can not explain. It goes beyond the dread of cancer, it is cancer in its worst form. Not to belittle hearing someone you love has cancer but hearing someone you love as terminal cancer is just different. But here I was sharing this experience with a woman who was a stranger only 10 minutes ago. We both shared the fear we faced and I tried to offer lessons I have learned and comfort God has given me over the past four years. It felt good to share my journey and faith. In a small way I was able to see God turn something awful and use it for good. It was the first time I was able to share with someone in my same position, a spouse. I realised that there are unique emotions, and issues that you deal with as a spouse. I guess I never thought about it before, not until I listened to a stranger express my deepest thoughts.

As I look back on the moment I know God brought us together and I hope to see my new friend soon. Next time you say a prayer for Andrea take a moment to pray for this couple. With all my heart and all I am I wish they did not have to face the difficult days ahead, but I know God will be there for them...He has been for me.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Just the Facts Please

This may be a difficult blog for some and I even thought about leaving it unwritten. I don't want this to come across as a loss of faith, it is anything but that. If you read this please take the time to read it in its entirety.

This week Andrea and I had a doctor appointment to have her voice fixed. This blog started to come to my mind after the doctor stated he would base his treatment decision on Andrea's life expectancy. If she was only going to live for six months he would do a temporary procedure vice the permanent solution.

The doctor's words were emotionless and I don't think he thought his words were any revelation, just an obvious statement of fact. I began to think about his words. Andrea was wearing a ball cap, her hair obviously falling out, we parked in handicap parking, we arrived in the clinic in a wheelchair, and Andrea was on oxygen. And it hit me, Andrea is dying.

Now this was not the first time I thought this but it was the first time I saw it from that point of view, just a medical fact. We believe Andrea will be healed, so when Andrea is sick I only saw it has a temporary set back, a delay to the inevitable healing we awaited. And I still feel this way, but when we left the doctor's office I saw Andrea from the doctor's view just a patient.

Percentages are a strange way to look at life and death, but it is the doctor's way of life. Percentage chance a medicine will help your condition, percentage chance you will have complications, and when needed a procedure whose percentage chance of complications out weight the percentage chance of complications without the procedure. Just the facts, based on every case before you and your particular doctors experience. Andrea's percentages are not good, those who die from cancer go through many stages and predictors that point to a conclusion. Like being on the water ride at an amusement park you are carried by the flow, unable to effect the outcome, realising the eventual end that you know is coming based on what you see. You know the big drop is coming and you are going to get wet when the conveyor belt begins to pull you up a steep climb. We know the path we are on leads to death. That is just the facts. Metastatic cancer puts you in that class. You start in a crowd of healthy people that is whittled down by cancer, even more to those whose cancer that has spread, and to those whose cancer does not respond to the first chemo, then the second and then the third, until weakness sets in, fatigue of treatment, weight loss compounds the problem of weakness, and soon life looses any quality. In the shadows, death stands ready to offer its own form of relief.

Doctors have seen this played out many times although there may have been a case here or there where someone survived when factually they should have died. But doctors live off odds and statistics, and they think in terms of what should happen, or what will most likely happen. That is what this doctor was doing with Andrea and I don't fault him, it is how he has been trained. Although I see Andrea as a person and not a statistic, she is my one data point in fighting cancer so I do not feel tied to "What should happen or what ought to happen."

This is what made Andrea doctor's office so unique in Goldsboro, no one from the lab to the chemo room to the staff to the doctors saw you as a statistic. At least they never let it show. You were a unique case as if Andrea was the first breast cancer patient for them. They never allowed what they have seen or experienced taint how they viewed you as a patient. That is what gave people hope, hope to fight, hope to be the one patient who beat the odds.

The simple factual approach Andrea's doctor took this week made this whole event seem nothing more then an forgone conclusion. It steals hope, it quickens the patients acceptance of death's relief.

This is what I hate about the medical field, this attitude of just being a statistic, it shows in their body language, and their words. It is how we train doctors and only the best can separate the statistics from a patient. I think Oncologist are probably the worst at this simply due to the nature of their work. These doctors believe they are the gatekeepers of life and death see their knowledge and man's drugs as the final answer and therefore a patient as a fact a statistic where life and death can be predicted with high accuracy.

Dr Atkins was never this way. He saw the drugs inabilities and limits. He focused on the exceptions to the rules. Dr Atkins always knew there was a chance, every patient was a chance to prove the past predictors wrong, to write a new course in cancer treatment. You never felt hopeless, there was always a chance because you were an individual. Statistics point to the past, you are the present and therefore you we not bound by the laws of what happened before. You had hope to write new statistics, based on new developments in treatment. Drugs that were not available one or two years ago. Drugs that void statistics based on old treatment options. Dr. Atkins never assumed he spoke for God. He knew the limits of the drugs. As an experienced Oncologist, Dr Atkins knew the predictable outcome,he knew the odds, but he never let that come across to the patients.

Andrea and I had a talk last night about this and we both know without a miracle from God Andrea's cancer is incurable. It is the obvious conclusion to her medical condition. And everything points that this is the path we are on. Her cancer although responsive to the chemo treatment, has never been totally removed. CT scans have never been perfect, just better. Blood work, liver function all point to a disease that has been slowed but never stopped. Breathing is labored, eating is difficult and strength is waining. All are predictable progressions of cancer and this path only points in one direction. Doctors expectations are fulfilled and become reality. Hence the mater of fact attitude of the last doctor. He has seen this before and his life's work his training are all based on percentages and odds. So he coldly states his recommendation will be based on how long Andrea had been given to live. In case you are wondering, we told him we are expecting to be healed.

But really what has changed for us. We knew this was the expected medical outcome since June 27th 2005 when we were told the cancer had spread to Andrea's bones. Sure we are further along the path and the things are clearer and events are more predictable the further we go.

Our hope and our faith is not is a drug, it is in God almighty. We placed little hope that chemo would heal Andrea, other then God could use it to heal, but it was never our hope nor the source of Andrea's healing. So as we talked last night about death. We know we are closer then before, we know the signs are pointing in that direction, but they always were. God can still heal Andrea, cancer will never get to the point where it has "gotten away" from God and His ability. His will will be done. We pray and we believe His will is to heal Andrea, and that has not diminished in any way. But, we see what you see, and we understand some of the fear, confusion and doubt you must feel. We hear some of you asking, "Why is this happening to Andrea?"

Here is how I look at it. Start from your worst fear, death. I know that is hard for some of you to even read or think I would even utter those words as if I have lost faith to even think them. I do not feel that way and I don't mean to offend or upset anyone. But try to let yourself go to your worst fear and then look at it from God's point of view. Or at least the best or minds can understand His point of view. But the Bible is a window into our creator, His love and His ways and it speaks about death. We are all dying, we just don't like to think about it until we have to. So most of us do all we can to not think about death. We do not have that luxury.

So what if it is God's will for Andrea to die. Then she will be with Him and without pain. She will be experiencing joy and peace we can not begin to imagine. Now stop and think about that. If that is our biggest fear, what are we afraid of?

Fear of death can be our humanness our desire to not live without someone so special as Andrea. That is a real emotion. One I strongly have for my wife. I do not mean to come across as someone without a desire. I desire Andrea to be healed more then anything in my physical life. But I would not want my desire to become a hindrance to my faith and trust in God. I can have all the desires I want until my desires cloud my faith and my trust in God. When my desires become greater then my willingness to trust God, they have become an idol to me, and a sin in my life.

Or this fear could be exposing doubt in our faith. Maybe God is not real. Maybe there is no heaven. If that be the case then Andrea's death is not about her but about our faith. Maybe her illness and possible death has just opened our spiritual eyes to something we need to face. Maybe it just exposes the limit to which we are willing to trust God.

God knows my desires, He knows my love for Andrea, He created it. He is not out to get me or punish me because of this trail or in Andrea's death. He has already shown a love for me I can not fully comprehend. He is only asking us to trust Him, to believe Him, to have faith when life does not go as we plan. Then we learn to lay our life at His feet, to pour our lives out as an offering, because we know by faith that His way is best. To live in His will is better then living comfortably in out own. Steel is only strengthened by fire. Tress grow deeper roots when blown by the wind. Our faith is stronger and our understanding of God is increased when life asks us to walk by faith and not by sight.

Most of you know I meet Andrea at a street light. I looked to the car next to me and I looked into those beautiful blue eyes. But that is not what drew me to her. Nor was not her warm smile. It was something in her eyes, it was her spirit. There was something about her, all I knew was this, she had what I needed in my life, the missing piece. At that moment I could not even tell you what it was but I quickly learned it was her faith. Andrea believed in God. I mean believed no matter what, like some of you have learned from knowing her. I needed that faith. God brought me to that place at that time for a reason.

Last night as we talked, I told her when, "I first saw you had a quality something I needed and I was drawn to you. I needed your faith."

She said, "You have it now."

Do I think it is a coincidence that later in our life God is requiring this very faith? No I think that was God's plan. God brought me to Andrea to learn and receive the very faith I would need to be her husband. I have been truly blessed beyond measure.

What more could I ask for in life?

I have a Godly wife.
I have the honor to be Andrea's husband, to be chosen to be the husband of a woman of such faith is humbling.
I married my best friend.
I can honestly say I would not change one thing about my marriage.
I have been blessed with the happiness of a 1000 lifetimes.
I witness daily up close, and behind closed doors a woman of such faith, and strength. It is not a mask it is who Andrea is.
I am a better person, and husband having known Andrea.
I know I will one day be with Andrea in heaven and this life is just a blur, a blink in time. I need not hold on so tightly.

You see when I think of this whole trial, not just bits and pieces of it but life, death, faith, and God in its entirety, my fear and worry melt away. And I do not worry that a doctor who speaks of Andrea as a fact, whose life's outcome is a forgone conclusion. His faith and life's work are grounded in his own ability and knowledge. He faces a far greater challenge then we do. Humbling himself and accepting salvation as a free gift.

We will not answer to a doctor but to our creator who has asked Andrea to be a witness for Him in a difficult time. Why does not matter. Faith when called upon will always involve acting without understanding. What matters is how we react. How we face the fiery furnace is how our faith is tested and proven of worth. If God calls us who are we to question. If we believe God is who He says He is then we really do not need to worry. Worry is just doubt creeping into our faith. We all battle with worry but in the end I fall back on the one statement that answers all my questions, worry, and fears.

God loves Andrea.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sing Praise

At times I struggle with Andrea's illness. This is about understanding the spiritual healing we have already received.
This is about perspective.

Andrea and I went to a Chris Tomlin concert on Jan 27 2005. What a great time of singing praise songs! Afterwards I wrote this journal entry about what I was feeling.

Last night I felt I needed to just praise God and not think about cancer, to just praise God and not beg for healing. This was not a time to receive from God but to just praise God for who He is and what He has done.

Last night was not about why I was here, dealing with cancer. It was not about me. It was about my creator. You are God and you saved me. It did not go beyond that.

I have often thought of how I would react the day I hear Andrea is healed. I think I would fall down and worship God, and shout for joy. I would just be bursting to tell everyone what had happened. Why? Because she was dead without a miracle from God to save her. Because there was no hope outside of God, and when she is healed it was God who gave us life when all the world offered us was death. Think of that. She had no hope, death was waiting. It had a firm grasp on Andrea. And there was nothing we could do. It was beyond our control. We were helpless. We could only wait for the inevitable. One thing cancer makes you do is wait. And while you wait, you suffer. You suffer in a hopeless helpless world. You just watch it slowly do its work. You fight with drugs that only seem to accelerate the very thing you are fighting. And the cancer seems to laugh at our attempts to stop it. It seems at time we are helpless knowing what we face but never wanting to look squarely at it. We look for glimmers of hope is a sea of despair. We are lost and can do nothing on our own. Sure there are times during treatment you feel you have control, that you have the upper hand with mans technology and research. But there comes a time when you see how little we know about cancer and how little man can do to stop this disease. You find that hope placed in man is a futile attempt to stop a relentless disease.

Then I think of God reaching down and healing Andrea. And Andrea is given life. A gift I could not buy, a gift man could not provide. It is like being plucked out of a raging river just before you go over the falls. What a gift! Can you imagine? I just close my eyes and allow myself to drift into that moment. It will be God who heals Andrea and His fingerprints will be all over her. When you are so hopeless, when you know you can’t change anything. You see it when the doctor says your cancer is incurable, that there are no drugs to heal this, that your only hope is to manage the cancer. Then you see your hopelessness. As great as man’s accomplishments are, you see how weak we really are.
The other day I was flying and I though of the marvel of this F-15E I was controlling. I though of the complexity of this machine as it followed my every command. It is a magnificent fighter plane and I marveled at the minds who crated it. Then I thought of myself, and my own complexity. I thought no matter what man creates no matter how spectacular it is it will always pale in comparison to the human body. No matter what great things man does they will always fall short of the simplicity of a rose or the complexity of the stars. Man can not compare to God.

But you know this story has already been played out, but the gift was far greater then the healing we seek for Andrea’s cancer. You see I already faced death. I already faced a hopeless situation, one in which nothing man created could solve. I was lost and could do nothing about it on my own. I had a spiritual cancer and there was no human I could turn to for a cure. There are people who claim to have a cure but it only turns out to be some weak attempt to mask the symptoms. Drugs, alcohol, money success these are all man’s attempt to cure this disease. They only mask the reality of the situation. But rest assured one day the cancer will reap its reward. It will lead to death. Until we come to realize that death has a hold on us and we can do nothing on our own to change it we will never see the cure. When we see the futility of our actions to change our eternal death we realize we have to look beyond man for help. You see in a way my disease was the same as Andrea’s cancer. But Andrea being cured, as great as that will be, will only be temporary. Unlike our salvation, that is forever.

So I thought to myself, do I have the same reaction to my spiritual healing and I will for Andrea’s physical healing? Why am I more excited about the thought of Andrea’s healing then I have been about my salvation? We have already received the greatest gift, and it was given at a great price, the suffering of Jesus. The cross still stands and offers life. We were all given a terminal illness when we were born into sin. It is just that some of us have not received our diagnoses yet, we have not been told we have cancer, or we don’t want to hear it. We explain away the symptoms on other reasons. We fool ourselves into thinking the things we do will somehow save us from getting the disease. But we are only kidding ourselves, we already have the disease, we were born with it. The cancer is there, and the longer you let it grow untreated it only spreads into other pasts of our body and other parts of our life. Cancer devours the very body it needs to give itself life. Just like cancer that consumes the very body it depends on for life, sin will eventually take your life. There is only one cure. It is not being nice or better then someone else. It is not your successes in life. It is not by your “good” deeds outweighing your bad deeds. Man does not have the cure. No matter how advanced we become as a society or race, no matter what great feats we do, we can never cure this sickness that was born out of mans sin of pride. Don’t be fooled by this cancer. It will tell you, “don’t worry, I’m part of you, it’s natural to think and act this way, this is how you make yourself happy, doesn’t it feel good?” Then it must be good. Trust me one day it will show itself as the killer it is. When we will realize that what we thought was giving us joy is really bringing us death, we begin to understand how hopeless we are. We have no power to change this diagnoses. Then we look to God and say, “help me.” That is when we see the cross as our cure. The cure has always been there we only need to accept it, to drink it in and allow it to do its work. Of course there will be side effects, as there are with any drug. The most common side effects are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Soon you no longer act the same, others think you are different, some even think you are weird.

So next time I think of how great it will be the day Andrea is healed I will remember the healing we have already received. So instead of waiting for a temporary physical healing to sing praises to God I decide to start now. This breast cancer cannot affect our joy, our eternal joy in Christ. We have already received a gift far greater then the one we seek today. Physical sickness cannot change that. Jesus’ death on the cross has made us immune to Satan’s lies forever. That is one fact Satan would like us to be confused over. He would like us to think this cancer is bigger and scarier then it is, that its effects are eternal, but they are not.

We will one day be in heaven where we will sing Gods praise just like we did last night. Not to ask for anything, but just to praise Him. I will raise my hands with Andrea and sing “How great thou Art.” And we will forever be in His presence, eternally cured of our disease, not hoping for 20 or 30 more years of life but experiencing a 1000 years as a day!

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Our Memories

Andrea's phone call, "I found a lump in my breast, but I'm sure it's nothing

The doctor saying, "It is invasive ductile carcinoma."

Walking into LB's office and for the first time telling someone, "Andrea has cancer."

Writing my first email to family telling them Andrea had cancer.

Feeling helpless while waiting for Andrea is come out of surgery.

How naive we were when we first went to chemo, two kids in an adult world.

Watching the first chemo flow from the IV bag into Andrea's port. It was bright red like Kool-aid, and wanting to run away.

The outpouring from friends, the decorations put on the house by the 90th wives after Andrea's two surgeries. The countless meals and the end of treatment party.

Placing my hands on Andrea's back praying as she threw up. Praying for God to take away Andrea's nausea, in the middle of my prayer she threw up again. Stopping the car time and time again while Andrea opened the door to throw up.

Our last appointment with Andrea's first oncologist. When we asked her what do we do now that the treatment was over. "Nothing, if it comes back you just try to give you a good quality for the time you have left." The feeling as if we had been punched in the gut.

Going on our vacation in Europe when Andrea finished treatment. Napping after lunch under the tress in Tuscany.

Andrea unable to get up after the 4th of July fireworks due to the pain.

Dr. Atkins calm demeanor as he turned on the tape recorder as he told us Andrea's pain in her hips was incurable bone cancer.

Walking into the Duvall's house and telling LJ Andrea's cancer was back.
Picking Nic up at the airport and telling him Andrea's cancer was back.

The power of prayer and the tangible feeling of friends lifting Andrea up in prayer. The many answered prayers.

My sisters, Eileen and Mary going to NYC Sloan Kettering Hospital for a second opinion.

Going to the beach with the Duvall's.

Skip's prayers of faith for Andrea.

Going to hear Chris Tomlin in concert and experiencing the best praise service in my life. Hearing 4000 people sing together and thinking this is a taste of heaven.

The people of SMOC, Dr. Atkins office. Andrea's first visit, Susan and Myrtle. The chemo babes, everyone of them. Andrea being sent for a brain scan and being told it was negative. The office staff signing a hat for Andrea.

The highs and lows of chemo.

The look in Tracy's eyes when she told me Andrea might have a tumor in her brain.

Our friends in North Carolina, As Andrea described it, "Being held in a hammock of love and prayers." More then friends more then family, it was a unique bond of perfect love from one person to another. I think never to be repeated again in my life here on earth.

Andrea's Mom and sister coming to visit and surprising Andrea.

Gibby and Kellie coming from Turkey and Thailand to visit Andrea.

Andrea's visiting Kellie in Colorado.

Andrea Maureen and Eileen on a get away to Colorado.

Gina's prayer for Andrea's healing, the ladies laying hands on Andrea.

Pushing Andrea in a wheelchair at Target and running into Christy, her kindness to us in an uncomfortable situation.

Jacklyn's prayer in the department store.

Lisa driving one hour every week to take Andrea to chemo.

Sleepless nights and time in the prayer closet.

The utter feeling of helplessness and despair but the supernatural light feeling from God.

Wayne's prayer for Andrea.

The pray shaw given to Andrea at church.

Hearing the diagnose when Andrea went into ICU.

Seeing Gina coming out of the ICU the first morning.

Sitting with Leigh, Gina and Mandy in the ICU waiting room.

Maureen and Nouhad coming to help when Andrea went into ICU.

Witnessing in awe, Andrea's faith, courage, and strength.

Andrea's first words after the ventilator was removed. She put her arm around my neck as I bent down and said, "I love you.

Having oxygen delivered to the house.

The prayers of children like Anna, Emiline, and Alli.

Our last appointment with Dr. Atkins.

Not wanting to leave the SMOC chemo room. Saying goodbye.

Endless doctors appointments.

The anticipation while waiting for a CT result.

Praying outside the doors while Andrea was having a scan done.

Calling for Andrea's tumor marker, hearing the nurses voice and knowing they did not want to give me the bad news.

Sleepless mornings, sitting in the office writing this blog.

Andrea sleeping with a bible under her pillow every night and holding it up to the doctor while she was in ICU.

Waking up and seeing Andrea sleeping with a Bible over her chest where she is hurting.

Taking Dr. Atkins for a ride in the F-15E.

Countless cards flowers and letters from friends and friends of friends.

Witnessing God power and how He uses the Body of Christ to answer prayers. Watching how God uses something I first assumed was about us to touch others.

Reading Psalms and relating to the feelings behind the words.

Learning first hand the power of the Bible.

God's faithfulness, answered prayers, and the real feeling of God's peace.

Andrea's Memories

How helpful Jim and the boys have been.

Everything people have done for me.

People praying for me.

Roz bringing soup to the hospital. All us girls getting together for lunch in my room after ICU.

Lighting my luminaries at the Relay for life.

Speaking at Relay for life banquet.

Tuesday lunches with the girls.

Having lunch and friends in the chemo room.