Monday, August 10, 2020

Five Years Cancer Free! Choice of my books ends September 17th

It's been a crazy 5 years for us. Our journey started with Joe's cancer and along the way he lost his mother and I lost my father. But through it all God has been so good to us, always working things out for us. I am finally returning to writing. Maybe not 100% full-time but I hope to be back to writing a couple books a year. By the end of August, Bride by Blackmail, is scheduled to be released, and I am well over half-way through my medieval sequel to Sword of Forgiveness! It's good to be back doing something I love so much.
2020


Five years cancer-free!
We've had a busy few years since we came back from Houston. We started building our new home. We moved in 9 months ago. Building a house has been time consuming but also good for both of us to get busy and work on something together. I know we are both glad that all the hard work is done and what we have left is less physical! It's been nice to focus on something other than MCL. 

God is so good. MCL’s life expectancy at the time of Joe’s diagnosis was 2 to 5 years. But we are approaching five years cancer free! So what is it like now for us? We have moved into the house that we built. Joe continued to work a full time job and build this house. It has been quite an undertaking I have to say. We’ve been working on this house for 3 years now from groundbreaking but praise God we are in! We have graduated to returning to Houston for checkups from every 4 months to every 6 months. However, on our last checkup we got some tough news. Yes, Joe is still in remission (good news) but 19 out of the 131 windows trial patients have relapsed and 3 have passed away. So what does that mean for us? The patients that relapsed were in what they called ‘high risk’ meaning they have 1 of 5 high risk factors. Joe unfortunately falls into that category. So for the next two years Joe will be on what they call a maintenance treatment. He won’t be on the harsh chemo which made him lose all his hair but will be on the trial drugs that actually put him in remission. He will take a pill every day and will go into the hospital for an infusion of another drug every month.

I don’t question why God has chosen to do it this way. I’m just thankful that He has provided a way to keep Joe in remission. So do I think that God didn’t heal Joe after all? Absolutely not! God did not give Joe a miracle, He gave him a healing and He used the doctors to do that. This next round of treatment is just another part of Joe’s healing and I am so thankful for it.

If you haven’t read our story, read on to see where God has taken us and the AMAZING way He ordains people, places, and events in our lives, For us we see His hand 20 years ago when He began moving people for this very time in our lives.

The following are posts I wrote at different times in this journey. I am so thankful I have a Father in Heaven who loves us so much and cares for us each and every day.


2014

Life prior to MCL
My husband went to the doctor for a check-up and the doctor discovered a lump near his collarbone. Well, Joe knew it was there and had ignored it, thinking it was nothing. The doctor sent us to another doctor.

This doctor thought it was a fatty tumor—nothing to worry about. But at the last minute (and I'm sure the looks of concern on our face played a part) he said, "Well, there is no way to know for sure without a biopsy. So I'll send you to a surgeon to have it biopsied."

Two days later we are sitting in the surgeon's office and he is telling us it is in the wrong spot to be a lymph node. He thinks it is a benign fatty tumor, come back on Friday and he will remove it. So we returned on Friday. Half way through the surgery he said, I'm beginning to think this is a lymph node. Several minutes later he reached the lump and confirmed it is a node. He sent it off and told us it isn't big and he isn't to concerned that it is cancer.

A week passes while we wait and pray. We return to the office to find out Joe has a rare form of Non- Hodgkins Lymphoma called Mantle Cell. Suddenly our lives are turned upside down!

Next week we are in the Oncologists office scared to death. He's telling us how we will put this into remission with some very tough chemo and then a stem cell transplant, but it isn't curable. It will come back, the question is when. Wow!!! These things happen to other people right? 


This was a barn raising! Friends came and helped 
us put up a barn for our horses for shelter while
we were gone. 
After several more tests we were to start the next week. However our daughter who is a PA and a dear friend who is a NP talked us into going to MD Anderson and getting a second opinion. Three weeks later we are in Houston at MD Anderson and they are telling us about a clinical trial they'd like to see Joe in. They ran more tests and repeated some that had already been done. What they discovered in the CT scan was that in a month Joe's lymph nodes that were swollen throughout his body hadn't grown. And though there are a lot of them, they aren't large like a lot of Mantle Cell (MCL) patients.



God is so good! Had Joe taken just one treatment of Chemo he wouldn't have qualified for the clinical trial which will eliminate the stem cell transplant!  Dr. Wang at MD Anderson is the top MCL doctor in the nation. He said since Joe's nodes hadn't grown they would take the 'watch and wait' approach. We will return every 3 months for another CT scan to see if anything is changing.

The 3 month reprieve is an answer to prayer. We are now juicing and eating fresh fruit and vegetables trying to get Joe's immune system up along with lots of vitamins! Everything we read tells us that building his immune system is the key to beating this 'so-called' incurable disease.

But I know God is bigger than MCL and I truly believe God is going to heal Joe. Now whether it is through divine healing, healthy eating, or the wisdom God has given doctors, I don't know. But I do know Joe will beat this!


2015
My life was turned upside down this past April when my husband was diagnosed with a rare form of non-hodgkin’s lymphoma called Mantle Cell. He wasn’t even seeing the doctor because he was sick. The man is never sick. And I mean never
George W Bush Library
Since April has been living in Houston more j than South Carolina. But God has been here with us in amazing ways!

The first thing I did as a Christian, I fell to my knees and cried out to God. I don’t mean just pray I cried out—out loud—pleading with God. I contacted every person I knew who would pray and asked them for prayers. And God moved. First He guided us to MD Anderson. A dear friend and nurse practitioner from Dallas called when she heard about Joe. She convinced us to come to Houston to MD Anderson for a second opinion. She then called her best friend in Houston and got us a place to stay when we came.
George W Bush Library
Then I got an email from a lady who had called me weeks earlier about getting a sheltie puppy from me. This woman knows nothing about Joe. Her email goes something like this. “I don’t know what is going on but God told me to tell you that He’s got this.” I cried. I responded and told her what WAS going on. She told me that she didn’t want me to think she was weird or anything but that she’d been driving down the road and God told her to pray for me. She said I thought to myself okay God I’ll pray when I get home, but she felt like God was yelling at her in her head saying pray now! She said she almost pulled her car over. Then people started telling me they were praying and they really felt like God told them He’s got this! I probably heard that at least 6 times. And no one knew what this other woman had told me.

It seemed every time my faith got low, God sent someone else to remind me He had this! It was so amazing. I’m a person who believes in ‘bugging’ God. I remind Him of His promises. I am like the man in the bible who has company come in the middle of the night and so he goes to his neighbors and won’t quit knocking on his door until he gets up. God wants us to cry out to Him.
My babies happy to see me

In the lowest valley we’ve ever walked, God has been there every step of the way. We never said why us? Things like this can bring a person closer to God. I know I want God to use me through this. It has been amazing to watch God move. I’ll quick give you some ways He blessed us.

Friends, neighbors, and family stepped up to the plate to help. It was unbelievable. You see I have 3 shelties, 1 German Shepherd, 1 cat, 5 horses (one is a young colt), and a miniature donkey. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Friends and family take care of our animals when we are gone. 
Some of our other 4 footed family
We went to the hospital and Joe was put with Doctor Wang. People ask us, How did you get in with Dr. Wang? You see he is one of the 2 top doctors for Mantle Cell Lymphoma in the World!

Joe has probably had MCL for 2 to 4 years. But God wanted us at MDA at this time. Because it just so happened that Dr. Wang was starting a clinical trial for MCL patients and Joe was immediately accepted into the study! Had his Mantle Cell been discovered earlier we would have missed the trial.
Our PA daughter, Kacie, Dr. Wang, Joe and me

We fell in love with the woman we were staying with. She’s like family. She offered her home to us every time we come down and even when we have to stay for 5 months!

God has been so good to us and I am so thankful for all His blessings. That’s not to say we never have hard days. We do! We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But keeping our eyes on the Lord is the key to keeping a good attitude. I don’t think God is disappointed with us for hurting sometimes or getting discouraged. But what He does want is for us to know where to turn when that happens. He wants us to look up and run into His open arms.


2016
Today I’d like to share what it is like after the chemo and the words remission. When we first heard those magical words a weight lifted off our shoulders and
Ringing the remission bell!
each day was like a new lease on life. But every four months we have to return to MD Anderson for PET/CT scans and that reminds us that the doctors aren’t so sure this cancer will never return.

God healed Joe—he just used MD Anderson to do it. So when we return every 4 months for those rechecks Satan wants us to live in fear that the mantle cell has returned. He wants to rob us of the joy and assurance the Lord has given us. It’s hard sometimes not to look over your shoulder to see what is there, but God wants us to look up rather than back.

So how does one go on after beating a cancer like MCL? Joe and I have found that keeping our eyes focused ahead of us and on God keeps us putting one foot in front of the other. It’s been a year this month that Joe was declared cancer free. When we walk out
of MDA with the new results it is always a positive feeling. And the next three or so months we continue on with our normal life which is always busy.

But as the weeks creep by to the next four month checkup, there is Satan whispering fear and negativity into our ears. I am the one who sees a glass half-full and Joe is the realist. LOL! His words. Mine are more like pessimist. We agree to disagree on that title. So I expect him to worry but not me! No, I am the positive one. I’m not supposed to have these doubts. However, try as I may to keep my faith and not let fear get a foothold, many times it does.

Like countless other things on this journey, God had already put things in place, this time a scripture to cling to when my faith waivered. Several years ago our pastor chose Mark 9:24 for our verse that year. Many of the sermons throughout the following months tied in to that verse. Mark 9:24 is a short verse and reads, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

It’s a reminder to me that though God wants us to have faith and trust Him, He recognizes that we are human and at times our faith is going to waiver. For those times He has given us a verse to cling to. It’s a verse that shouts out to us that God wants to help us when we face hard situations where our faith wanes.

Leave a comment, ask a question, share your story, to be entered to win choice of my novels/novellas and choice of format. 


40 comments:

  1. Congrats to joe on being cancer free for 5 years. Here's to another 5 of no cancer.

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  2. HALLELUJAH! I'm celebrating the Lord's faithfulness to you and Joe and your family! I'm grateful that we were able to have lunch during one of your trips to Houston.

    SHALOM and BLESSNGS!

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    1. Caryl, it was so good meeting you in person! I don't know when we will be back to Houston with this virus, right now we are scheduled for September but I am expecting them to cancel it. When it is behind us, I'd love to meet again. And I love, love, love my heart and key you gave me!!

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  3. Thanks you for sharing your story, I am so happy that God has used others in Joe's healing journey. I have a friend who also found MD Anderson to be her answer and you described perfectly her emotional rollercoaster. She is terrified as she prepares to go, she is filled with happiness and thanks when she learns the test results, and she comes home to live a somewhat normal life for 3 months, and then, it's time for that roller coaster ride again. Now, she is on a 6 month routine and we still pray that soon it will be longer. I tell her that God is using her to minister to others and you and Joe have an even bigger platform! God bless you both!?

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    1. It is a crazy ride but thankfully God is in the drivers seat and we can trust Him! I pray your friend stays in remission as well. Thank you for sharing, Connie.

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  4. Praising for 5 years and trusting God for many, many more!! So glad you are getting back into writing.

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    1. Betti, Thank you! I am excited to get back in the saddle. ;) And feeling very blessed.

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  5. Praise God for 5 years cancer free. May God bless him with many more.

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    1. Thank you, Lucy. God has certainly blessed us and I continue to hold to his healing.

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  6. So thrilled for you both Debbie! We just celebrated my sweet hubs 10 years prostate cancer free! God has been so faithful, beside us every step of the way. Praying you'll both be able to enjoy your new house together for many, many years to come.

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    1. Thank you, Robin! And congratulations to you! That is awesome, 10 years! We serve a mighty God!

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  7. Praise God for 5 years and believing for many more years! I knew some of the story but thank you for sharing all of it. jarning67(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Hey Joan! So good to hear from you. It is truly amazing the way God has guided our steps. And to look back it is unbelievable to see how His hand has been on our lives. Just leaves one speechless.

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  8. I love how you give the Lord the glory. And acknowledge the doctors and helpers along the way. But you are a hero in this story, too! The way you prepare your husband’s special diet and ingeniously adjust recipes for him, the way you can and preserve and juice... give yourself a gold star along with the beautiful people on the journey!
    Happy 5-year milestone to you warriors. God bless you with many more doing what He’s called you to do and doing what you love.

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    1. Awe thank you, Kathy. You are such an encourager and prayer warrior! We are so blessed to have friends and family like you who have prayed along side of us this whole way. I couldn't have gotten through this without those prayers and the encouragement. You're the best!

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  9. Praising God with you! Here's to another 5 years!!!!

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    1. Thank you, Jennifer. He certainly has blessed us and we are looking forward to our future cancer-free!

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  10. Congratulations on reaching such a milestone. It was touching to read the compilation of your posts all at once. Not everyone would choose to be so transparent. And yay for you being settled in your new home AND the idea of new stuff from you is EXCITING!!!! Continuing to pray for you all and your family as well.

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    1. Connie, thank you so much! Those prayers mean the world to me! I know God hears the prayers of His saints! God bless you for keeping us in yours. Its a road I never had thought about journeying, and I can't even imagine having to do it without the Lord on SO MANY levels!

      You made my day to hear you say you are excited for new stuff from me! My goal is to be putting much more out there. At least 2 books a year. :)

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  11. Sometimes we forgot how a cancer diagnosis affects the whole family. The person with cancer is being taken care of but what about the caregivers. I love how God was orchestrating things even before you knew. I am reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6 because I do not always have to understand things because my God is in control. I just have to continually put my trust in him. Praying that your cancer journey inspires people to draw closer to God.

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    1. Sonnetta, what a beautiful thing to pray! I pray so as well. I believe that God uses these things for His glory and. I want to be faithful along this journey. I pray our story is an encouragement and inspiration that draws people to Him. What is life without Him? The burdens would be so heavy, but His yoke is light because He loves us. I Love Proverbs 3:5-6. He certainly has proven this scripture true to us! Thank you for coming by!

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  12. God is good. Our family will be celebrating this Friday with Bryar having his ONE YEAR bone marrow transplant anniversary. So happy to hear your hubby is doing well.

    - Cortney Lipar-Johnston

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    1. Thank you, Cortney! I follow little Bryar's progress and pray for him. One year is HUGE! So glad he is doing well. I can't imagine traveling the road you've traveled with a child. Praying Bryar and your family have this behind you for good!

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  13. I’m so thankful that you have kept this journal for us to read. God is so good. I thank God upon every remembrance of you. Praise God for what he has done. I love y’all beyond words.

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    1. Frances!!! Thank you! God is indeed good and we are so thankful for all He has done for us. We love you and have so many wonderful memories of you and your family.

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  14. Praising God with you!
    Blessings, Tina

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  15. Praise the Lord for his continued watchcare!!!

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    1. Amen, Anne! Looking forward to Covid being behind us and having that lunch when you come back this way!

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  16. God is good all the time. All the time, He is good

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  17. Sweet friend, I loved reading your story all in one place. You are an example to us all of a faithful follower of Jesus even in the hard times. Praise God for His love and mercy and His intervention in your lives!

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    1. Thank you for all the prayers! I feel so blessed. He has been so good to us. I know I have said it but I don't know how anyone takes this journey without Him. His peace, love, and comfort is amazing!

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  18. So thankful that our paths crossed at MD. Continuing to pray for you and Joe!

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    1. Thank you, Julie. How are you all doing? We should catch up. I think we are going to stay here in SC and get scans and the maintenance treatment he has to start on.

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  19. So thankful that our paths crossed at MD. Continued prayers for both you and Joe!

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  20. I am so glad that he is in remission still! My dad had a lot of heath problems last year so I understand the stress of going through it though it is not the same thing or nearly as bad.

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    1. Struggling with health issues no matter what they are can be so stressful and we have to rest in God's peace no matter what they are. I hope your dad is doing better Abigail.

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  21. Congratulations Joan A. You won choice of my books and format! I'll be sending you an email.

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