Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Milestones and Merry Christmases

Q and A phone conversation I had with Jen... I forewent typing up the q's though... Hope you enjoy hearing from her as much as I did.

From Jennifer:
I'm currently getting my second round of consolidation therapy (chemo). The one before targeted the AML side of my leukemia, and this one is targeting the ALL. Today was the first day. It will go through Friday. On Saturday, they will give me a shot to help my white blood cells recover. The side-effects from this round of chemo will likley be mouth sores and nausea, among others... The stem cell physicians will have me evaluated after this round.

They've contacted the donor to work out the timeline of the transplant. I don't know who the donor is. Hopefully, in about three weeks, I'll be recovered from this consolidation round, and then they'll give me about three more weeks to build my strength back up. This will bring us to the point in the timeline where the donor's availability will dictate how we proceed. Right now, the plan is to transplant me anywhere between mid-January and mid-February. We are praying for protection from an infection or something else that could throw a kink in the timeline. The bone marrow will be given through an IV, and I'll have more details to share about that once it draws nearer.

With this round of chemo, I've gone from being fairly normal for the past couple weeks to being sick again. Yesterday was our 3rd anniversary. It was a bit surreal to be sitting in a doctor's office making decisons about chemo and bone marrow transplants. But, sitting there, I couldn't help but be thankful that we were not discussing how we were going to spend our last anniversary or my last Christmas. No, in the Lord's graciousness, we are confident there will be many more of both. My last lumbar puncture was last Friday. This is my last round of consolidation therapy. We are checking off the list our stepping stones to a cure. The Lord has blessed each one of those stepping stones and held my hand, and even carried me, each step of the way. By His goodness and mercy, He will lead us to a cure, to another anniversary, and to many, many more Christmases. During this season of hope, I am thankful for the hope He has given me at every turn but most of all for the Hope that He sent to all of us that blessed Christmas morning. This Hope, not the hope for a cure, but HIS Hope is what sustains me. Blessed be the Lord.

Prayerful Ponderings:
This round of chemo could very well cause mucositis (which causes the aforementioned mouth sores). Please pray that these will not be severe or, even better, that they will not show up! Pray that Jen will respond well to this last round of consolidation. Pray that her spirits will be lifted up through this season of joy, peace, love, and HOPE. Pray for the calming presence of the Lord to be very real to her as the transplant date draws nearer. Please continue to lift up her donor in prayer and that the Lord's hand will continue to guide these wonderful physicians we've had the privilege to come to know and love for their excellent care.

The Vandy Verse:
Jennifer and Matt chose beatitudes (from Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount recorded in the gospel of Matthew) to be engraved (the verse references that is) into their wedding rings. Jennifer has tiny fingers, hence a tiny ring that had no room for an inscription. She chose a beatitude anyway, as did Matt who does have his verse engraved in his ring. Jen thought these verses were fitting to share in celebratory honor of December 6, 2008- their anniversary.

...Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied...
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy...

Taken from Matthew, chapter five

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turkey Strut Follow-Up

If you have not yet gotten your Turkey Strut t-shirt and had one ordered by November 4th, please contact Chris Potts at 601-832-0932.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turkey Strut

Thursday morning's Turkey Strut was an absolute hit! The wonderful crowd and beautiful weather made for an overwhelmingly special event. Once again, it served as a great reminder to Jen of how God is using her friends and family to help support her through this journey to a cure. And, once again, how could we ever thank all of you who helped make it such a huge success enough.   

Here are a few pics documenting the memorable morning...

Pre-registration in front of First Presbyterian Church

Katy Carter, Nicholas Brown, Cristen Hoag
Cristen won the women runners category! Congrats Cristen!

Our cousin Avery Kaigler

Uncle Keith headed down East Jefferson Street

Two of the kindest sisters we know...

View down Pecan Boulevard

Brother-in-law Eli Dew and his dog Annie

View up Smythe Street

Dad and Mom Holdiness
Daddy with Matt's mom Jamie and my mother-in-law Melinda McCool

Looking on as the walkers cross the finish line

Our cousin Natalie Kaigler documenting the event on video

Bowen Weir, Cousin Paxton Giffin, Uncle Keith Giffin, Eli and Annie
Jennifer had a lovely Thanksgiving with Matt and our mom. I'll leave you with a video message she sent me the night before the race. Happy Holidays, and thank you all again for making Thursday not only possible but hugely successful as well. (Matt threw his back out trying to master the turkey 'strut' you'll see at the end of the video. Moral- leave the real struttin' to the turkeys!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Whew. Today was a marathon at the hospital. Jen was in an infusion room for right at 10 solid hours. I dropped out early and came on home to clean and get supper ready. I always have been more of a sprinter anyway....

Jennifer had an appointment this morning to have her lab work done and the results came back showing her platelet count was down to zero. Nothing to be too alarmed about but it definitely required a blood transfusion that took up the morning and most of the afternoon. Around 3:30, when the transfusion was complete, more blood work was done and her counts were up to 16,000 (mine are around 250,000 if that helps with the perspective). She and Matt really wanted to see them up to about 20,000 to prevent a potential weekend ER visit.

These days, a lot of her time is being spent waiting. Waiting on lab work. Waiting on the transfusion. Waiting on the doctor to call. Waiting for the next round of chemo. Waiting to see how it will effect her. Waiting for the transplant...

It's been a pretty good week here in Nashville... She went in to the hospital early on both Monday and Wednesday to have her routine lab work done. On Wednesday, after the hospital visit, she and I went to Whole Foods where she picked out a turkey for Thanksgiving and got some cooking supplies to brine it with- a new technique she's going to try this year. (Jennifer loves to cook, coming from a long line of excellent cooks.) After that, we stopped in the Whole Body store- love that place- where she found a comfy hoodie and some bubble bath. We hopped in the car and drove to Target to find her some cute 'lounge wear' for her hospital visits. Then we headed home, and she kept me company while I made spaghetti for supper.

We've been running errands like this and busying ourselves around the house all week. Once, while we were putting together chicken enchiladas, there were a few minutes where I totally forgot her illness, the hospital, the doctors, the medicine. Forgot that she rides in a wheelchair around stores. Forgot that she is spending more and more time these days considering wig styles and colors. And it was just her and me in the kitchen and, for a moment, all of that was a world away. Don't know what brought me back to reality but I came back just the same. And now here we are, at the end of this week, and I'm thinking back over all the lovely reality that has occurred since Tuesday, and I'm thinking over some things that she's said...

"Thank you for coming up here."

"This is giving me perspective. I want a simple life. I don't care what the world thinks."

"They really are taking such good care of me." 

"We have the world's best mother."

"Let's go get some cute clothes for me to go to my appointments in. It'll make me feel better to get dressed and look nice, don't you think?"
 
"I don't know what I would do if you couldn't come."

"How will I ever repay you?..."

"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you..."

Grateful. Humble. Tender. Kind. And the greatest marathoner in the world.

Prayerful Ponderings:
Please pray that Jen's platelet count will rise, specifically without having to receive any more transfusions. Please pray that Jennifer will continue to resist infection. We have so much to be thankful for and as Thanksgiving is drawing near, join us in giving thanks for Jen's progress.

The Vandy Verse:
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:14

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A full week!

Jennifer with friends at the cook-off.
Today, the oncology pharmacy at Vanderbilt hosted a chili cook-off fundraiser in honor of and to benefit Jennifer. It was a huge success, and Jen was honored and deeply touched that her colleagues went to such lengths for her. This morning at breakfast she was talking about going to the hospital to thank, in person, the participants, judges, and others who came out to support her. She went on to tell me about specific colleagues and doctors who have bent over backwards to see that she knew she was cared for. The Lord has used these wonderful people in a powerful, powerful way in her life, and by extension, the lives of her family members. With such a strong support system and great news of remission and a bone marrow donor, she is basking in the Lord's blessings. Her positive outlook - choosing to see all the good that is coming out of her illness - never ceases to amaze me. It's an inspiring life she leads...

Her chemotherapy treatments have been on Monday and Wednesday of this week and will wrap up tomorrow. She and Matt leave for the hospital early in the morning on those days and are gone until lunch. She comes home to rest through the afternoon and then goes back around 6 o'clock in the evening. Again, she hasn't complained once and is taking the treatments like the champion she is. Her third lumbar puncture was on Wednesday. She experienced a little more discomfort than usual but, generally, it went pretty well. After this week, she will have a break from the treatments and then have one more round before the preparations for the transplant begin.

To give a glimpse of the state of her heart right now... It seems the weight of the world was lifted a few weeks ago when all the good news came flooding in. When visiting with her, now that there are more answers and more of a plan (medically speaking), it seems the constant distraction of the unknown has waned. Though we are still many months from seeing the entirety of this treatment played out, she is facing her circumstances in a most determined way. She remains her charming, happy-go-lucky self with her focus being more on others around her than herself. What an easy person to love.

IF YOU WOULD STILL LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE TURKEY STRUT ON THANKSGIVING MORNING, PLEASE JOIN US! FOR THOSE WHO DIDN'T GET A CHANCE TO PRE-REGISTER, REGISTRATION WILL BE AT 7:15 THAT MORNING. A T-SHIRT WILL NOT BE INCLUDED WITH RACE-DAY REGISTRATION, HOWEVER.

Prayerful Ponderings:
Please pray that her treatments continue to go well. The next round of chemo will be a different type of drug and will be in a couple weeks; please pray that her body will respond well. The chemo will once again compromise her immune system. Pray that her body will be resistant to infection. Thank the Lord for her positive outlook- a gift straight from Him. Join us in continuing to give thanks for caring doctors, friends, and family. Please continue to pray for her donor and for the transplant.

The Vandy Verse:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Fragile, The Broken, and The Blind

I'm here in Kosciusko for the week and realized this evening that it's been several days since an update. So, as I was frying bacon for a soup tonight, I called Jen to check in. Oh, to be able to jump through the phone and be there with her! At the sound of her voice, I instantly wanted to pack my bags and make the drive. But, as she and I were talking, Matthew walked in the kitchen and reminded me never to fry bacon naked (apparently something his dad used to say and, for the record, I was fully clothed...), and I was reminded of how good it is to be at home. Even though my heart aches to be with her when I'm at home, it still longs to be here with him when I'm away. So, during this "life divided" I'm leading, I have to make the most of the time I'm given with each of them because, no matter who I'm with, I only have a few days to spend with either one.

Since I'm in Kosciusko for this post, I thought I'd write on things of home. I usually log my days here with an asterisk by 'things that would interest Jen,' so that when I go back to her I can share my experiences and encounters. Thinking over the course of the last two months, three particular encounters kept jumping out in my mind...

Encounter 1, The Fragile: "He's got your hair numbered!"
Early on, when faced with the certainty of Jen losing her hair, a friend reminded me of a couple verses that reference I AM's concern with our hair...

"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered..." Luke 12:7
"But not a hair of your head will perish." Luke 21:18

She was quick to point out that, yes, He does indeed know the very number of hairs on our head but there's so much more to it than that! Not one strand falls to the floor without His acute awareness of it. He cares that much about me that even things like my hair matter to Him. For as much as His majesty is unfathomable, His love for me is just as unmatchable. He knows my fragility and takes it upon Himself to keep a play by play on every little thing going on with me. Nothing happens to me, not my hair perishing and not life-threatening disease, without first passing through the hands of Abba and getting his fatherly approval.

Encounter 2, The Broken: "You live long enough, you will encounter heartbreak."
It is a very real, inescapable thing in life- given enough days here on this fallen planet and my heart will literally ache inside me from the brokeness I will cause, endure, or be subjected to. This heartbreak can be a good thing. If I will let it. To experience real-life heartbreak, the kind that leads me to the brink of despair, can be a life-changing kind of a good thing if I will not suppress it. What's 'bad' in the temporary can have 'good' eternal ramifications. Bad things, terrible things even, can become good things when placed in the right hands- the Lord's...
I have had a few experiences in life that have left me utterly broken. Broken in so many tiny pieces, that I truly thought there was nothing left to break. I was sharing this with my younger sister one afternoon and she reminded me of all the bones I've broken in my lifetime. "Remember, Lauren, when you broke a bone, it was set and healed to be stronger than it had been before the break." Lightbulb moment. I got the metaphor. God will allow my heart to be broken into so many pieces, in fact, that only He can put it back together. And when He puts it back together, it's stronger and better than it was before the break.

Encounter 3, The Blind: "Read John 9."
I was left with those words running through my mind all day until I could get home to do just that, "Read John 9."

"As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His followers asked him, 'Teacher, whose sin caused this man to be born blind- his own sin or his parents' sin?' Jesus answered, 'It is not this man's sin or his parents' sin that made him be blind. This man was born blind so that God's power could be shown in Him.'" verses 1-3

Now, the rest of the chapter is excellent. I don't mean to shortchange it. But I had to stop after just those three verses because they are incredibly powerful. In my customary way, I have a sort of checks and balances system for nearly everything. I make sense of things based on cause and effect. I touch the hot pot; it burns me. I speed down the highway; I try to talk my way out of it. I stay up too late typing on the computer; my eye twitches the whole next day.

Jesus' followers are doing the same thing here. That man's blind; his sin or his parents' sin must be the cause of it. They got the effect right. It was the cause they had ALL wrong.

"This man was born blind so that God's power could be shown in Him."

That man was born, a precious baby, blind. Eyes, yes; sight, no. Life spent wondering what his mother's face, a sunset, or just a bowl of soup looked like. No sight for all his life. So that, in this particular moment in history when Jesus just happened to be walking along that road, Jesus could heal him and His glory and power be displayed. I don't know about you, but I highly doubt Jesus just happened to be walking down that particular road that day.

I love this story. I'd love to chat with this fella because I'd like to know- did he ever say, "Why did I have to be the one born blind? Why me?" Or, did he say, "Wow. God chose me. God picked me to heal. God used my ailment to make Himself known. God let me be the one He shined through that day on the roadside." What a high and holy blindness this man was born with.

Sometimes God allows things, crummy things from my limited viewpoint, into my life so that His power, majesty, glory, sovereignty...(the list goes on, I'll stop here for now) may be displayed. God, in all His matchless glory, wants to display Himself in my puny little life. Because He doesn't think it's puny, and He doesn't think it's little.

He knows it's fragile and broken and blind, and He doesn't give up on it. It still matters to Him. He wants to use it anyway. And He loves taking the fragile and the broken and the blind, and rebuilding something strong and mended with vision restored- something magnificent. If I will only take it and place it in His hands.

Prayerful Ponderings:
The update from Jen- Having some headaches and backaches. She said the docs felt the headaches were nothing out of the ordinary. She went for another lumbar puncture today and will go Friday to have her PICC-line put in. The chemotherapy that was to be administered this week has just been pushed back a week so she will begin, this coming Monday, on the next round of chemo. Please pray that the headaches and backaches will subside so that she may rest at home. Her chemo will be given out-patient, which is certainly a blessing. Pray that the Lord will continue to show Himself strong for her fragile body.

The Vandy Verse:
I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you." So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ's power can live in me. For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Friday, October 28, 2011

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

JENNIFER IS IN REMISSION!!!

She and Matt went in to Vandy this morning for a few appointments and received this wonderful news. Remission means there are no traceable blasts in her marrow. She texted, "I'm officially cancer-free!"

The blessings are raining down from Heaven!

Thank you, Lord, for your protection and provision. Thank you for being a Father we can trust in, no matter what the outcome. Thank You for holding our hands through the mountaintops and the valleys of life. Thank you for this exciting news! As in all things, let it be used for Your glory. You alone are worthy of all our praise and adoration!

The Vandy Verse:
(The Song of Moses)

I will sing to the Lord, because He is worthy of great honor...
The Lord gives me strength and makes me sing; he has saved me.
He is my God, and I will praise him.
He is the God of my fathers, and I will honor him.
The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name...
Your right hand, Lord, is amazingly strong.
Lord, your right hand broke the enemy to pieces.
In your great victory you destroyed those who were against you...
Are there any gods like you, Lord?
There are no gods like you.
You are wonderfully holy,
amazingly powerful,
a worker of miracles,
You reached out with your right hand,
and the earth swallowed our enemies.
You keep your loving promise
and lead the people you have saved.
With your strength you will guide them to your holy place...
You will lead your people and place them on your very own mountain,
the place that you, Lord, made for yourself to live,
the temple, Lord, that your hands have made.
The Lord will be king forever!

-Taken from Exodus, Chapter 15.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Match Day!

"Hey! Guess what?! ...They found me a match! It's a 10 out of 10 match! It's a perfect match! They've contacted the donor, and they have two more potential matches. ...I didn't ask, she just said I have a donor! Isn't it wonderful??! ...Hopefully my bone marrow is in remission, which we will find out tomorrow. We are praying that it is. If it is, next week they'll consolidate me. Then one more consolidation, and then they'll prep me for the transplant. ...It's a 100 day procedure, and they'll watch me real close. Then, maybe, after two years I'll be back to normal! ...I told Mom and Billie and Lauren, and Matt listened in with me on speaker phone. ...He's right here beside me. ...That'd be great Dad! ...Yeh, and watch football and just have a good time! ...Ok. Thanks Dad! ...Bye!"

That was Jennifer's conversation with Dad that I recorded in real time. As you can see, we have lots we're celebrating here in Nashville!

TURKEY STRUT UPDATE: For out-of-town participants (or, out-of-town non-participants that just want a t-shirt), please send registration forms and payments to:

Mrs. Chris Potts
1202 East South Street
Kosciusko, MS 39090

*See "Strut Yo' Stuff" post for more information. Please feel free to email me at laurenmccool11@gmail.com if you are having trouble viewing any of the information. The deadline for registration WITH a t-shirt is next Friday, November 4th. We don't want you to miss out!

Prayerful Ponderings:
Please pray for her donor. Pray that the biopsy reveals a remission. Praise the Lord!

The Vandy Verse:
Psalm 103 (King James Version)

1Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

 3Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
 4Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies;
 5Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
 6The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
 7He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
 8The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
 9He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
 10He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
 11For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
 12As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
 13Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
 14For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
 15As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
 16For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
 17But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
 18To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
 19The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
 20Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
 21Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
 22Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Say a Little Prayer for You...

The moment she wakes up,
She's gotta go for her check-up.
(I say a little prayer for you.)
She has no hair now.
She's wonderin' what hat to wear now.
(I say a little prayer for you.)

(Refrain)
Forever, forever, you'll stay in my heart.
And I will love you, 
Forever, forever. We never will part. 
Oh how I'll love you...
Together, together that's how it must be.
To live without you, 
Would only mean heartbreak for me.

She goes to the nurse here.
She's got a big needle, Oh dear!
(I say a little prayer for you.)
As straight as an arrow,
It drills down deep in her marrow.
(I say a little prayer for you.)

(Refrain)

And now at this juncture,
She'll go for her lumbar puncture.
(I say a little prayer for you.)
They'll send in the chemo.
The blast count will register zero.
(I say a little prayer for you.)

Forever, forever, you'll stay in my heart.
And I will love you, 
Forever, forever. We never will part. 
Oh how I'll love you...
Together, together that's how it must be.
To live without you, 
Would only mean heartbreak for me.

(Written by Jennifer, Matt and Lauren)


Prayerful Ponderings:
Jen did go for her bloodwork today. There are no cancerous cells in her blood, and we are prayerful that this is mirroring what is going on in her marrow - i.e., that her cancer will no longer be detectable in her bone marrow. She will go in early tomorrow morning for the biopsy and lumbar puncture. Things are still going well here at home, and, after some nausea this weekend, her appetite is back with a vengeance! Please pray that Jen tolerates the procedure well, that there will be no adverse side effects, and that God will guide the proceduralists tomorrow. Pray she will be found to be in remission and that she will be able to begin consolidation as early as next Monday. Also, pray that she will continue to be infection-free! (And, as you can tell from the parody above, keeping her sense of humor and laughter are proving to be wonderful medicine!)

The Vandy Verse:
I praise the Lord because He advises me. Even at night, I feel His leading. I keep the Lord before me always. Because He is close by my side, I will not be hurt. So I rejoice and am glad. Even my body has hope... You will teach me how to live a holy life. Being with You will fill me with joy; at your right hand I will find pleasure forever. Psalm 16:7-11

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Washed anyone else's feet lately?

(Written Tuesday evening, October 18th)

So I would imagine this is what a mother hen feels like when she has all of her chicks in her nest. Yes, I know Jennifer is not my 'chick' but it is a comforting, safe feeling having her here at my 'home away from home,' Jenny and Matt's house in Nashville. It's nice being able to look over and see her resting on the couch versus driving 20 to 40 minutes (depending on traffic), parking in a garage, gathering all the laundry, food, etc. from the car that has to go to her room, stagger to the lobby with the mound of 'stuff,' ride eleven floors up, punch the security button to the bone marrow unit, wash down with sanitizer... and all this just to lay eyes on her! 

As I was saying, Jenny's resting easy here at home enjoying movies, naps, an array of t.v. channels (in the hospital there were only about 12, most of them being versions of ESPN- who knew there were so many!), spending time with Traveler the dog, visiting with Mom, our aunt Billie Jean, Matt, and me, and eating the most delicious meals! Today Billie and I weathered the FREEZING rain to visit the amazing Nashville Farmer's Market and snag some fresh veggies. That place is phenomenal! As I write, Mom and Billie are in the kitchen preparing some different dishes from our farmstand finds that Jen has requested, Traveler is tip-tapping around Jennifer's feet, and Matt has just come bounding in the door from an 8-hour long test! What a blessing to see this house come alive with Jennifer's presence!

I've been thinking a lot today about the outpouring of love and support from family and friends that has manifested itself in the kindest acts of service over the course of the last month. To name a few....

~friends and aunts keeping Jen and Matt's house squeaky clean, doing laundry and 'honey do' projects, caring for Traveler, and preparing meals.
~throngs of cards, phone calls, emails, care packages, drawings, visits, meals, sweet goodies, caps, scarves, Clorox wipes, and water! Amazing!
~friends giving us rides to and from Nashville.
~the run/walk benefit for Jennifer, simply- WOW!
~one aunt canceling her trip to Ireland to be here for 3 weeks! She also taught Traveler how to be leashed for his walk without going nuts and breaking furniture. The other aunt slaving away in the kitchen to prepare gourmet and neutropenic (a medical term indicating Jennifer has to have meals specially prepared) dishes and cleaning out and reorganizing the entire kitchen to be more Jen-friendly!
~doctors and nurses going above and beyond to see that Jen is being cared for in the best possible manner- we are blown away, to say the least!

And these are only a few! To sit back and contemplate all these sacrificial acts of service is extremely humbling. That this many people care about someone you love so deeply is truly moving. How we have been blessed by these wonderful people who have allowed themselves to be used as vessels in the Father's hands through which He has poured out His grace, mercy and love. It is my opinion that we, the human race, are at our best when we take on the heart of a servant because it is then that we are most closely mirroring our Savior, the ultimate Servant. 

When I think of all the acts of Jesus' service chronicled in the Bible, my favorite has to be on the night before his death when He washed the feet of his disciples. To understand the magnitude of what He did that night, we have to understand the times in which He did it. Right now, my feet are pretty clean. I took a shower and slipped on socks and have been walking around in shoes all day. Now, contrast that with the feet of Andrew or Thomas or Matthew on the Thursday night of the famous Last Supper. Dirt roads, sandaled feet and long walks...Pleasant feet, they do not make. In Jesus' day, when guests arrived at the hosts' home, the lowliest of the servants was chosen to do the considerably dirtiest of jobs. Can you imagine your boss walking up to you and saying, "Yeh, uh, we're gonna need you to be washing everyone's feet that walks through the door today,"? I don't think they could process my two-week's notice fast enough! To sum up this particular household servant's job in a word: demeaning. 

Now, back to the Upper Room where the Master of the Universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Prince of Peace, and the Darling of Heaven, is bended low on His knees meticulously, LOVINGLY washing the filthy feet of his sometimes faithful followers. When He reaches Peter, Peter will have none of it! "No, Lord, you will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "If I don't wash your feet, you are not one of my people." Peter quickly changes his tune, "Lord, then wash not only my feet, but wash my hands and my head, too!" Don't you just love outspoken, impulsive Peter! (Reminds me of someone...) For me, it would have been a somewhat easier task to wash ol' Peter's feet. Yes, in a few short hours, Peter will flat-out deny that he even knows Jesus much less that he is one of his dearest friends. But take a closer look at this fisherman who left all that he knew to follow this man who made him an offer he couldn't refuse...

-When asked about the identity of Jesus, he boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. (Side note: Peter claimed Jesus was the Christ when making such a claim was anything but 'cool.') 
-He was one of three of Jesus' disciples on the mountaintop when Jesus was transfigured and heard the voice of the Father boom from heaven, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!" He then begged Jesus to let him, literally, set up shop and never leave that mountain-top experience. 
-He was often found jumping out of boats just to be near Jesus. Cases in point: Peter steps off the boat one night to WALK to Jesus who's also WALKING around out there on the water. After Jesus' resurrection, Peter doesn't even take the time to take off his cloak before jumping into the water, off the boat he and the other disciples are fishing from, to swim ashore to see and be with Jesus.
-It is believed that Peter was the disciple, the only one in fact, who drew his sword to defend Jesus when the crowd, wielding clubs and swords, arrived to arrest Jesus. 
-Again, Peter was the only one who bothered to come back (all the others had run away in fear) and head over to Caiaphus' house to find out Jesus' fate before the Jewish Sanhedrin. 
-He was a part of the "Inner Three," one of Jesus' closest friends, along with James and John. 
-He was the man whom Christ built His church upon, in essence, the first preacher. 

Peter and Jesus were buds, great friends, tight as ticks as some say.

But then, Jesus arrives at the feet of the one and only Judas Iscariot. The first time you really see this guy he's complaining about a woman who has 'wasted' perfume to annoint Jesus. If that's not a window into his heart and where his loyalties really lie, I don't know what is. At the time of the scrub down, he's the one who has sold out to the political and religious leaders of the day and been looking for ways to hand Jesus over to them to be killed - all for a mere 30 silver pieces. With 'friends' like Judas, who needs enemies?

Re-reading the story, time and again it's not when Jesus washes Peter's feet that moves me. It's when he bends over Judas and, just like the other 11, he gently, carefully washes the feet of his betrayer. In a matter of moments, Judas will hurry from the room to do "the thing that he will do (and) do it quickly," to turn Jesus over to the religious leaders who can't wait to get their bloodthirsty hands on him. Judas leads them right to Jesus, who, at this point in the night, is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is arrested and the rest, they say, is history- or should I say HIS-Story. And isn't it a marvelous one. 

Throughout the Gospel books, it's interesting to note that Jesus not only serves His closest friends and casual acquaintances, but that He also serves one who despises Him and all that He stands for. As Christians we are called to be like Jesus, called to have the hearts of servants. Trouble is, we don't get to choose whom we will serve. God just says- SERVE.

So thinking on all the ways it has been a pleasure, a delight, and a joy to serve Jennifer and Matt down this bumpy road, I got to thinkin' I'm only half-way mirroring Christ. I am called not only to serve my friends, those whom I love, but my enemies, or those whom I have a harder time loving, as well. Great enjoyment can be found in serving a friend, so it's sort of a win-win, right? But serving an enemy, now that's where the rubber meets the road... Therein lies the challenge - the challenge of turning from my sinful way, taking up my cross, making the sacrifice, and serving one who would rather have nothing to do with me (and I them) or, worst case scenario, rather do me harm than good. Sounds like a win-lose. And to the blind eye it is. But when my motive for serving is to bring glory to my Father above and not for the praise of men, then I will find my reward. And it is heavenly. 

O Lord, thank You for the parts of us that are like You, for it is not by anything we can muster. The only good things in us are those things which are from You. Let us not come up short in serving. Let us serve, with glad hearts, our friends AND our enemies. And may we be found to be more like Christ with each act of service to which we yield ourselves. That we may hear You say, on the day of Judgement, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!"


(Written Thursday night, October 20th)

Prayerful Ponderings:
Please pray that Jennifer will continue to rest easy here at home. It was a gorgeous day here in Nashville, and she and I got the chance to walk around the neighborhood for a little while. Pray that she will continue to gain her strength back. She will have bloodwork done next Tuesday. We are praying that all her blood count levels will have returned to normal and that there will be no cancer found in her blood. On Wednesday, she will undergo a bone marrow biopsy- to determine if she is in remission or not- and a lumbar puncture- a test to see if there's any cancer in her central nervous system. Also, with the lumbar puncture, they will inject chemotherapy into her central nervous system which will circulate through her brain. Please pray for a positive outcome. Pray for Jen's mental, emotional, and spiritual state as she faces the week and all it will hold. Pray for Matt as he holds her hand each step of the way. Pray for wisdom for the doctors. It is our hope and prayer that next week will find her in remission and that the doctors will be able to begin consolidation therapy on Friday of next week. Of course, all of this is tentative but will help to serve as a timeline for the coming week. Pray, ultimately, that God will be given all the glory, honor and praise. He is worthy.

The Vandy Verse:
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will be able to do what I did to this tree and even more. You will be able to say to this mountain, 'Go, fall into the sea.' And if you have faith, it will happen. If you believe, you will get anything you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:21-22

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Strut Yo' Stuff!

We are so very excited about the 1st annual Turkey Strut in honor of and to benefit Jenny! When I gave her the news that kind members of the Kosciusko community wanted to do this for her, she was absolutely thrilled and deeply touched. 


The Turkey Strut is a 5K run/walk that will begin at 8:00 am on Thanksgiving morning, with registration beginning at 7:15 am. The entry fee is $20, which includes a 'Turkey Strut' t-shirt if your pre-register before November 4th. The race will start and finish at the First Presbyterian Church. You can register at First Presbyterian Church, M&F Bank, Claude Julian's and Spot Cash Tire & Appliance. Sponsoring the race are M&F Bank, Ivey Mechanical, JC Cheek, Breezy 101, Claude Julian's and Spot Cash Tire & Appliance. *If you are unable to participate in the run/walk but would still like a t-shirt, you may fill out a registration form indicating FOR T-SHIRT ONLY and attach $10. All proceeds from the race will be donated to the Jennifer Fowler Sample Fund. 


Below is the link to the flyer detailing the event, and the link to the t-shirt design is just below it. If you have any trouble viewing either one, please email me at laurenmccool11@gmail.com. I think it promises to be a fun morning and what a special way to kick off Thanksgiving Day gathered with family and friends remembering all we have to be thankful for. 


*Another trick, try copying and pasting the link into your web browser to pull each one up. 


Race Flyer
https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=15haUySRcn4Vpl1jK6zG4MRUygn64-3aOHqI9xY9k38rnC63qEd6m6J-sHxxB&hl=en


T-shirt Design 
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=1kIvph3W_UchgcBpGF-jHAwdeXpXjoO-waWwQndb18As-W-ZekOUoRomMnVbY&hl=en

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And the 2011 homecoming queen is...

I cannot think of better news to post with this morning, after a week off, than: 

JENNIFER IS COMING HOME!!

Last night was like Christmas Eve, and I could hardly sleep from the anticipation of having Jenny back. After riding a small roller coaster for the last several days, her numbers are now on the climb and the doctors feel comfortable about sending her home. She was excited this morning when I spoke with her, albeit a tad apprehensive about the transition, naturally. Please pray that the transition will be a smooth one, that she will be able to get some much needed rest, and that her body, mind and soul will be strengthened and restored during her week and a half long stay. After a week and a half of respite, she'll go back to the hospital for a week of consolidation therapy. The goal of consolidation therapy is to achieve a deeper level of remission. The therapy is about five days, with a seven day stay in the hospital all total. 

A Hymn of Thanksgiving, A Psalm of David

Lord, I will thank you with all my heart...
I will bow down facing your holy Temple,
and I will thank you for your love and loyalty.
You have made your name and your word
greater than anything.
On the day I called to you, you answered me.
You made me strong and brave...
Though the Lord is supreme,
he takes care of those who are humble...
Lord, you do everything for me.
Lord, your love continues forever.
Do not leave us, whom you made. 

Psalm 138

Praise the Lord. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Medical Synopsis

From Matt:

The following will serve as a clinical summary of what has happened thus far:  On Tuesday, September 13, 2011, Jennifer was seen in primary care clinic at Vanderbilt Internal Medicine regarding some leg swelling, shortness of breath, and skin/soft tissue issues she was having.  Routine blood work returned from the clinic visit later that afternoon when Jennifer was at work that indicated she had acute leukemia.  She was severely anemic in addition.  I called Jennifer at approximately 5pm that afternoon once I became aware of the lab abnormalities and asked her to leave work to present to the ER for a much needed blood transfusion.
Upon arrival to the ED, she was promptly seen in the ER by hematology who made us aware that she had acute leukemia but were not sure exactly which type.  At this point, Jennifer was placed in a room on the 8th floor where she stayed for the rest of the night.
The following day, Wednesday, September 14, 2011,  she underwent a bone marrow biopsy to help determine the type of leukemia she had as well as get specifics about the cells that would help determine the best course of treatment.  Intravenous fluids and allopurinol (a medicine to assist with clearing away cellular breakdown products as they react with chemo) were started.  She also underwent a breast biopsy of a mass that was discovered earlier in the week.  Finally, she was transferred to the bone marrow unit on the 11th floor.
On Friday, September 16, 2011, the final results from the bone marrow biopsy had returned with the diagnosis of biphenotypic leukemia as her specific type of acute leukemia (in previous posts referred to as mixed lineage leukemia, but more accurately referred to as biphenotypic).  This is a rare type of acute leukemia (less than 5% of all acute leukemia) and the specific subtype of biphenotypic leukemia that she has (T myeloid) makes it even more rare.  The biphenotypic portion of the name simply refers to her leukemia as being a combination of both ALL and AML within the same malignant cell.  All of this taken together means that there are not any clinical trials or research that might inform our physicians' decisions.  That is not to say, however, that they are unsure of what to do for her.  As one of the more senior physicians put it, “she’s got leukemia, we can treat that.”
Later that day, she began on a regimen of cytarabine, idarubacin, prednisone, and vincristine to begin treating her leukemia - this represents day 0 of treatment.  This is part of the induction phase of chemotherapy.  The way leukemia is typically treated is first giving induction chemotherapy to knock the malignant cells down low enough in the bone marrow such that our tests are no longer able to detect them.  We know, based on medicine’s long history of treating this illness, that if no therapy is offered beyond induction chemotherapy, the leukemia would return.  This is because malignant cells remain in the marrow despite our tests not being able to find them, i.e. they are below the test’s limit of detection.
After induction chemotherapy, depending on the type of leukemia, either a day 14 bone marrow biopsy is performed (for AML) or a day 30 marrow is performed (for ALL).  If no cells are seen, the patient is determined to be in clinical remission and the next phase of therapy, which is consolidation chemotherapy, may begin.  This consists of 2 to 5 sessions of chemo intended to drive the malignant cells count even lower in the marrow (and possibly even kill it for good depending on the specific type of leukemia).
After beginning induction chemotherapy on Friday, September 16, 2011, she was ready for her day 14 bone marrow biopsy on Friday, September 30, 2011.  This biopsy was rather controversial amongst the hematologists as there has been no research to show that this is the correct day to assess whether or not chemotherapy has been effective given her specific type of acute leukemia (biphenotypic).  Remeber, we check a day 14 marrow for AML and a day 30 marrow for ALL to check to make sure the chemo has been effective, but in Jennifer’s case, she has a combination of the two types and so no one was really sure when was the appropriate time to check.
Despite this area of controversy, a day 14 marrow (14 days are the beginning of induction chemo) was done which showed very few cells of any type within the marrow which is what one expects in the setting of chemo.  There were, however, still malignant cells present within the marrow.  Specifically, 7.5% of the cells seen in the marrow were cancerous at day 14, whereas on day 0 they had been at 95%.  We can therefore say that Jennifer has responded to the chemo that had already been given but were not sure if we should have expected there to be no cancer there or anything in between.  We were ecstatic about the results, despite the uncertainty.
Given that Jennifer’s bone marrow wasn’t totally free of cancer, her doctors decided to give a little more induction chemotherapy by adding on a different medication called PEG asparaginase with plans to reassess her chemo response with a day 30 bone marrow biopsy (roughly, could be anywhere from day 30 to 40).  This would mean that her next bone marrow biopsy would be scheduled for anywhere from Monday, October 17 to Wednesday, October 26.  We are in dire need of prayers that her marrow will be free of cancer at this point and she will be determined to be in a state of remission, so that we may begin consolidation chemotherapy.
On Monday, October 3, 2011, our hematologists met and determined that once Jennifer achieves a remission, she would need to undergo a bone marrow transplant.  We also need prayers that there will be a donor for Jennifer and that this procedure goes well.  The previous Saturday, October 1, 2011, we found out that neither Lauren nor Lindsey were matches for Jennifer’s bone marrow.
Jennifer has had two fevers during this hospitalization which have no doubt been related to her suppressed immune symptoms and bacterial infection of her IV line.  She has been treated with antibiotics since her first fever, and thankfully, these have resolved for now.
So as of today, October 10, 2011, day 24, Jennifer has received all of her induction chemotherapy and her immune system is starting to return.  The major cell of the immune system that we monitor is called the neutraphil.  We want her neutraphil count to be at least 500 prior to her discharge.  It had been 0 for the past 4 weeks as a results of chemo and her cancer.  Today it is 60.  Please pray that her counts continue to rise and that we don’t see a return of her malignant cells in her blood stream.  We are anxiously awaiting her day 30 bone marrow biopsy so that we can determine when she can begin consolidation chemo.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dance Your Cares Away

On my way home to Kosciusko yesterday afternoon, Mom called and said Jen was running fever. It had gotten up to 102 degrees but, by about 9:00 last night, they had gotten it to come down. Yesterday was a pretty rough day, not only with the fever, but some deep back pain as well. Since I'm not there this weekend, I found some old, familiar lyrics that I think might cheer you up, Jen. Hope these bring a smile to your face like they did mine...

Dance your cares away
Worry's for another day
Let the music play
Down at Fraggle Rock
Work your cares away
Dancing's for another day
Let the Fraggles play
We're Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober, Red
Dance your cares away
Worry's for another day
Let the music play
Down at Fraggle Rock


"31 Flavors," final ten...

10. When we were young, Jen and I would play "Talkshow." She would be Oprah, the talkshow queen, and I would be her flamboyant guest. For one interview, I decided to play a more 'behind the scenes' celebrity- Jennifer Montana, the wife of my all-time favorite quarterback Joe Montana. I told 'Oprah' all about my adoring husband Joe, our darling children, and having Jerry Rice over for family suppers. For some reason, this is the only interview I can remember with much detail. Maybe that's saying something... perhaps Joe and I were married in another life? Either way, I guess if the pharmacy thing doesn't work out, Jen could look into hosting talkshows. She's got plenty of experience under her belt.
9. Our dad has a nickname for nearly everything on God's green earth. It's ridiculous the crazy names he comes up with for stuff. Our younger sister alone has roughly 10-12 nicknames. Jenny and I were addicted to Fraggle Rock when we were little. (*See above theme song.) Fraggle Rock was created by Jim Henson and came on HBO on Saturday mornings. The Fraggles lived underground in a series of interconnected caves and tunnels. The 'workers' in the caves were called doozers. Because they were these little green creatures that lived in a cave, Dad nicknamed boogers, doozers. (I know, so gross, bear with me.) Now remember, we were really little. Any time we had a runny nose or needed to blow, Dad would say, "What's the matter? You got a doozer?" Well, I made it all the way to fifth grade completely oblivious that our family was THE ONLY FAMILY ON THE PLANET that called those things doozers. One day in our fifth grade Social Studies class, my best friend turned around and asked if I could see anything in his nose. "What do you mean? Like a doozer?" I asked. Oh, that's all it took. He busted out laughing at me, demanding an explanation for why I called them doozers. When Mom picked me up at carpool that afternoon the first thing out of my mouth when I jumped in the van was, "Jen, did you know other people don't call those things doozers? They call 'em boogers." In a very seventh grade, 'I wrote the book on cool' way, she answered, "Oh my gosh, Lauren. Do you mean you call 'em doozers in public? That's just Dad's thing. From now on, NEVER say that in front of other people." Good grief. All this time. Now I've got to relearn this word and censor everything I've ever heard my dad say. Lesson learned.
8. I was seven-years old when I learned Santa Claus only existed in the hearts and imaginations of little kids. It was Christmas night and Jen and I were snuggling into our warm beds, worn out from all the fun we'd had that day. Just as I was dozing off, Jenny whispered, "Hey Lauren, I figured out there's no Santa Claus." "What? What are you talking about? No! No! I won't believe it! (fingers stopping up ears) LA-LA-LA-LA-LA..." Jen sat up in bed, "Calm down, would ya. It's not like it's this great big mystery or anything and besides, it really was way too easy to figure out. You see, I noticed on most of my presents this morning that the price tags were still on. Who else do you know that always leaves the price tags on stuff?" (She didn't wait for me to answer.) "MOM! Mom's Santa Claus. It was really too easy. Can't believe I haven't figured it out before now. Oh well, 'night." Well, Merry Christmas to you too, Miss Grinch.
7. This is one of my favorites. It's how Jen and Matt met and fell in love. Matt lived just up the street from us in Jackson. One day I was lying on the couch zoned out in front of the tube, and in walks Matt Sample. "Oh hey, Lauren." Well, whadya know, I hadn't seen this guy in years. "I've been seeing these cars parked in yall's driveway with Attala County tags and figured I probably would know who was living here so I decided to come by and see." We caught up on what we'd been doing the last few years, and he told me all about Med School, "In fact, I've just taken the Step test. I'll find out what I made in a couple days." I wished him good luck and told him to let me know if he passed so we could go celebrate. He came back over the night he'd found out he passed. With an armful of beer, he banged on the door and Jen answered. She explained I was working and wouldn't be home for another hour or so. She hated to see him standing there with that great news and all that beer, so she told him she'd stand in for me to help him celebrate. When I got home, I found them out on the back deck, swinging and laughing and having the best time. "Hey Matt, I guess you passed? Awesome! Sorry I wasn't home when you got here..." He nodded a little my way but I could tell, even if I'd been Ringo Starr, Matt could've cared less. He was totally into Jen. They talked for hours and in the midst of one conversation he mentioned his love for music and listening to old records. "Oh, we should totally listen to records tomorrow night," she offered. "Of course," said Matt. The only problem was he had led her to believe he owned a record player. He spent the whole next day tracking down a record player and some cool old records. Oh, the things you do for love.
6. On our family's first snow skiing trip, Mom and Dad signed us up for ski school while they went gallavanting about the mountain. I wasn't sure what I had done to deserve that particular form of torture, and was certain Lindsey and Jennifer hadn't done anything to deserve it. Either way, we were stuck for a full day with a bunch of runny-nosed, whiny kids on the bunny slopes. That afternoon, the entire mountain was hit by a blizzard. As I was practicing my 'snow plow' through the torrential downpour of snow, I heard Lindsey calling, "Lauren, Lauren, I can't see!" I side-stepped back up to her where I discovered her goggles were completely covered in snow. I took my mitten and said, "Look Pooh, here's the trick-" and I wiped her goggles off. She was scared, I get it. That's why there was only minimal making fun. But just as I got Lindsey back in the game, we noticed Jen go sailing by us, headed right for a long line of preschool age ski-schoolers. Not able to turn her skis in time, she crashed into the last little fella. It created an all-out domino effect...and pretty soon every one of those ski-schoolers were careening down the hill on their stomachs, sides, backs...anything but skis. The instructor turned around horrified to see all his mini proteges in such a mess. The three of us were confined to our own little hill for the rest of the afternoon. When they finally came to pick us up, I don't remember ever being so glad to see Mickey and Lee Lea.
5. Right before my freshmen year of college, I got a cell phone. Jen had one for a couple years before so I already had her number memorized backwards and forward. I had the hardest time remembering mine though. After I'd given her number out to every Freshmen Joe-shmo that'd asked for mine, and she'd been called at every odd hour of the night imaginable, she finally threatened, "Lauren, you either learn your number or I'm changing mine." I couldn't risk her changing her number and not telling me the new one so- I learned mine. Who knew a little mix-up would make her so mad?
4. When I was in second grade there was an urban legend circulating through school, and it went like this: If you stick a sleeping person's pinky in a glass of water, they can answer any question you ask. The day I got wind of it, I couldn't wait to get home to try it on Jen. When bedtime came I readily hopped in the bed and began listening to see if I could hear Jen snoozing in the other room. At what I thought would've been enough time for her to slip off, I crept out of bed, grabbed the glass of water off my nightstand, and crawled into her bedroom. I slithered across the floor without making a peep and reached up to ease her hand off the bed. I let it dangle there for a minute while I thought up my question. When I was ready, I gently placed her pinky down in the water. Had I really been thinking, I would've come up with a much better question, instead I muttered out something like, "What's 7x8?" "56..." she mumbled. Holy moly! It worked! I didn't know the answer to my question, but 56 sounded right; I couldn't believe it! So I asked another, "Who is your favorite sister?" She grunted and said, plain as day, "Lindsey..." Harumph. So much for letting her borrow my roller blades. Onto the next question. As I sat there, with her pinky in the water, and thought, she sat straight up in bed and yelled, "Lauren, if you don't leave me alone and go back to bed, I'm gonna dump this whole cup of water on your head!" She'd been awake through all the questions. Guess I'll never know if it really works.
3. My sister, the pharmacist. I'm so proud. Unfortunately for her, I use her professional knowledge and skills as my 24/7 doctor-on-call. When I was a junior in college, she was in her second year of pharmacy school. I had had a pretty fun all-dayer in the Grove and topped it off with a big ol' greasy supper at Ajax. About 9 o'clock that night, I laid down to call it a day when all of the sudden, sharp pains started shooting through my chest. Certain I was experiencing something similar to a heart-attack, I called my 'doc-in-a-box' sis and told her she needed to rush over to the DG house and take me to the emergency room. I was fading and fast. When she got there, I had talked myself out of the heart attack but still couldn't shake the burning sensation. I needed something to cool and soothe the lingering pain. I hopped in her car and said, "How 'bout some ice cream?" "Lauren! Have you lost your mind?! First you tell me you're having a heart attack and now you want ice cream?! I swear! If you're ever in any real trouble, you're gonna have to call somebody else!" She drove me to the gas station where we both loaded up some cones, and she grabbed some Tums for me. We went to her house so she could finish typing a paper, and I decided to spend the night, just in case.
2. This one's not even remotely funny but it's one of my favorite memories of her... When I was in 10th grade I had to have two skin grafts done on my mouth. It was a horribly painful procedure where the doctor took skin from the roof of my mouth and then stitched it to my receding gum line. The gums in front of six teeth had to be done, so the doc thought it best to do three at a time making it two seperate procedures. After the first surgery, I was in excruciating pain for a full week. Even that lovely little pill called Loritab didn't help much. Several months passed and my mouth had healed enough for the second surgery to be performed. About a month before the surgery, Jen came in my bedroom and said she'd let the doctor take the skin from her mouth to use for the skin graft. Even after she'd seen how painful it was, she still offered. I declined, telling her I wouldn't put my worst enemy through that kind of pain. I couldn't find the words to tell her how much her willingness to endure that awful ordeal meant to me.
1. One Christmas, when Jen was about six years old, Mom and Dad gave her a globe. She unwrapped the bulging package and exclaimed, "Oh Momma! Daddy! Thank you for the world!" Boy. She hit the nail on the head. I don't know many folks like them. The selfless sacrifices they've made through the years, not to mention some incredibly trying times for the whole family, have made our parents, in our eyes, some of the strongest and most loving people we know. So there it is Mom and Pop, after this many years I think Pooh, Jen, and I would all say, "Thank you for the world."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"I haven't celebrated with that many people in a long time!"

To say Jen's 31st birthday was a hit may be an understatement. The gifts, cards, care packages, text messages, blog comments, and video messages were overwhelming! Matt, Jen, Mom, Lindsey, Aunt Penny, and I kicked the party off in the 11th floor conference room at 2:00 this afternoon. We started by opening gifts and then had ice cream and birthday cake, our Mom's chocolate pound cake- Jen's favorite. Then we watched all the video messages- some were sweet and sentimental, and some were just downright hysterical, but all were heartfelt and very much appreciated. They will be a wonderful keepsake for her for years to come. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts, for making her feel so loved on this most special of days.

"31 Flavors," continued...


 19. I was a pretty smart student but highschool and I didn't always 'mesh.' Actually, there were a few classes I just altogether clashed with. One such class was geometry. I had pretty much given up on the class for the rest of the year and was convinced the teacher had a true hate for, not only the subject matter, but me as well. About the time I started receiving sub-par grades was about the time she started dishing out extra credit for getting test papers signed. To stay afloat in the class, I had to get every paper signed. Trouble was, Mom and Dad would KILL me if they knew the grades I was averaging. One day, a class period away from hell-on-earth, I realized I hadn't gotten my paper signed. I slipped it out of my bookbag and asked the teacher if I could be excused. He permitted, and I rushed down to Jen's Government and Economics class. I knocked on the door and told the teacher I needed to see Jennifer in the hallway; it was a family emergency. Jen met me around the corner, "WHAT?! What family emergency?? What are you talking about?!" "Well, you've gotta sign Mom's name on this paper. If you don't, I could potentially fail this class. Mom and Dad will flip and may even threaten to send me away to some strict boarding school. We are going to have a full on family crisis if you don't do this for me." (Yes, I poured it on for dramatic effect). She snatched the paper out of my hand, forged Mom's signature, and stomped back to class. Whew. Crisis averted.

18. For those who don't know, Jen's a huge baseball fan. She went to nearly every highschool baseball game, usually with me in tow. While traveling to an away game one stormy Friday afternoon, the rain began to come down in sheets. She scrunched right up to the steering wheel and squinted her eyes through the rain. "Lauren, I mean this rain is really coming down hard. Do you think I should pull over? I mean it's really hard; I can barely even see. Can you see? Should I pull over?" As she blinked the headlights on and off, and after I relished in the moment for a few seconds, I gently replied, "Well, it might help if you cut on the windshield wipers." Problem solved, and we were once again on our way.

17. When we were all living in Jackson, Jennifer and Matt lived just up the road from Lindsey and me for about six months after they were married. Jennifer would bring her and Matt's dog Traveler down to our house on her way to work in the mornings. Traveler would spend the day playing in the backyard with my dog Layla at "Doggie Day Care." One afternoon, I arrived home from work, and opened the front door to find I was smackdab in the middle of a crime scene- blood streaked and splattered across the foyer walls. Given that we were living near a not-so-safe area of Jackson, I was, to say the least, horrified. While I stood paralyzed in the foyer teetering between fainting and quasi-consciousness, Travey came slinking around the corner with his head hung low in shame and tail tucked cautiously between his hind legs. When my head cleared, the first thought was, "Oh no! Where is the kitty?!" Then I noticed the white bulge at the end of his tail. It looked like an enormous Q-tip had sprouted back there. I immediately called Jen at work to get the details... "Oh yeh, Lauren, sorry about your walls. I was in such a rush this morning that when Trav went to jump out of the car, I slammed the door too soon and chopped off the end of his tail. The vet said to just wrap it up good to stop the bleeding, and he should be fine." Good, glad to know the dog'll be fine. Oh and by the way, thanks for the heads up. 

16. While heading back to Jackson from the beach four summers ago, I spent about 45 minutes defending my love of Widespread Panic music to Jen. In the midst of the heated discussion, I proceeded to veer off the Interstate at the appropriate exit, only to veer right back on again. Neither of us noticed until we got to Pascagoula, where Jen casually asked, "You think we oughta turn north at some point?"

15. Speaking of Interstate-exit-mishaps, in college I had the hardest time remembering to take the Vaiden exit off of I55-South to go home to Kosciusko. I'd sail right on to West before realizing I'd missed the exit. Several times, however, I caught myself just as the exit was fading from the rear-view. Jen happened to be hitching a ride with me most of those times. I refused to let that exit beat me, so instead of driving to West, I'd pull over to the side, check to make sure nothing was coming, throw it in reverse, and hightail it back to the exit. On one trip home, after I missed the exit and after traveling back up the Interstate in reverse with me three times too many, Jen decided to get out and walk back to the exit. So here I go, maneuvering in reverse up the Interstate while she stomps along beside the car yelling something about how dumb I am. Even after I made it to the exit and was going forward, she still wouldn't get in the car with me until I had safely pulled into a gas station parking lot. I told her I didn't know why she had to get her panties all in a wad and be so dramatic about it. It sure beat wasting 15 minutes taking the West exit.

14. On away-game weekends in college, we were often found in good ol' Starkville. One Friday afternoon, Jen and I decided we'd live it up there for the weekend, so we loaded up her Acura and took off. She fell asleep just outside of Oxford and since I had only gotten 'general' directions from her before she dozed off, it wasn't long before I had a sneaking suspicion we were lost. I hated to wake her but not one to be a big fan of being lost, I went ahead. "Jen, hey Jen. Hey Jen. Hey, look up for a minute would ya. I think, well actually I'm pretty sure, we're lost. Would ya just look up for two seconds and see if any of this looks familiar?" "Ugh, Lauren!"In her exasperation she flipped her eye mask down, leaned up and looked out the window, "Are you kidding?! It's all kudzu and cows out there. How the heck do you think I'm supposed to know where we are?! We're somewhere in Mississippi, keep driving! Wake me back up when you think we're getting close." Thanks, Jen. All I can say is thank goodness for kind farmers who occasionally do some roadside meandering. 

13. When I was three Jennifer cut my hair the day before playschool picture day. I had an eye that turned in when I was little (at least that's what Mom said, probably because she thought telling me I was cross-eyed sounded too harsh), so I'm sure I thought the new do looked pretty good. Well, in all actuality I really looked like some hobo kid Mom found and felt sorry for. So she stuck a cute dress on this choppy-haired, cross-eyed kid and sent her to school looking like the ragamuffin offspring of the village idiot. Terrible moment. 

12. Jennifer, Lindsey, Griffin, and I got all backwoods-Christmasy one year when we were teenagers and decided it would be fun to hike out into the woods, chop down our own Christmas tree, cart it back home, and trim it with all kinds of homemade ornaments- very Laura Ingalls Wilder style. We trudged around through the thickets a while until we saw the prettiest little cedar on the edge of the woods. The sawing commenced. The little handsaw we'd brought that I'd found in my childhood toolset just wasn't cutting it. Literally. So, the hacking commenced. But no hatchet or ax. We just hacked that little cedar to pieces with what was left of a handsaw. Then the shooting commenced- from the hunters in the woods. So, we waved our little Santa hats (yes, we'd worn them to feel extra festive) around like mad. Once we got the tree back to the truck, we realized it was way too big (think Chevy Chase's Griswold family Christmas tree). So, we sawed the tree in half and drug it into the bed of the truck. Being novice Christmas tree harvesters, we'd forgotten gloves so our hands were covered in sap. When we got back in the truck we noticed our hands were sticking to everything. (Note to self: It's hard to drive when you can't move the position of your hands.) We got home and had to cut the tree in half again so it'd fit in the gameroom. By the time we got it up, we were so sick of dealin' with that stinkin' tree that it just sat there, in all of it's pitiful dry- and undecorated-ness, until mid-January.

11. You'd think we'd learn to not deal with Christmas trees anymore. Not ones to easily give up though, we gave it another go about ten Christmases later when we were living in Jackson. This time the actual obtaining of the tree came about way easier. We just headed to Lowe's, picked one out, and had a very helpful young man tote it to the car for us. Yes, car. We'd forgotten to borrow a truck. So, the three of us- Jen, me, and nice Lowe's guy- just stood around for several minutes scratching our heads. Jen remembered that the back seat of my car would lay down so we stuffed the tree in, tip first, and strapped it down. At a snail's pace, we crept home down Old Canton Road to the sounds of Christmas carols and horns honking and the sights of twinkle lights and my trunk banging up and down on our sweet little tree. Ran into another problem at home. Couldn't get the tree into the stand because of all the undergrowth. I remembered Dad sawing all that junky stuff off in Christmases past, so I called the only neighbor I knew (the one and only Matt Sample, pre-Jen) and asked for a saw. No saw. Plan B. Went and grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen. Jen held the twigs taught, while I hacked. That was the most beautiful tree we'd ever had. It also helped that the good Lord let us keep all our fingers so we could decorate. 

...Hang in there, we're nearing the final 10! Good thing she's not turning 100!

Prayerful Ponderings:
Praise the Lord for a happy birthday for Jen and for loving friends and family that matter so much in times like these. Please remember the family of one of Jennifer's nurses, Kerri. She was killed in a car accident on her way in to work this morning. Jen really liked her and remembered her as being a kind, compassionate and caring person. How our hearts ache for her family. 

The Vandy Verse: 
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:1-14

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

31 Flavors

THIS JUST IN.... The doc came by to chat with Jen this morning and debriefed her on the next step in the treatment. She has begun a 1-dose regimen of Oncaspar this afternoon with the intent to thoroughly treat the lingering ALL component of her cancer. The side-effects the physicians will be monitoring for are blood clotting issues and pancreatitis. Please pray for a positive response as well as a strong tolerance to the medication. Pray that God will continue to uphold her with His strong right hand. And praise the Lord for the blessing of a truly wonderful nurse who prayed with and for Jen as the chemo drugs began.

*Matt will write a medical synopsis post, as promised, as soon as he gets the chance.*

Now onto what we've been entertaining ourselves with today... Baskin Robbins has their 31 flavors; we have our 31 memories! In honor of the big birthday tomorrow, Jen and I sat down and recounted 31 of our most favorite memories. So without further ado...

31. Once in a restaurant, I, at the ripe old age of 18 months, decided to pitch a screaming fit. The waitress walked up to our table, noticed my meltdown and then Jennifer sitting calmly waiting to give her order, and said to her, "And you must be the big sister." "No," Jennifer corrected her, "I'm the precious little angel."

30. When Mom was in the hospital after having Lindsey, our grandmother Mimi took four-year old Jen and two-year old me to visit. Momma let Jennifer hold the new baby while she sat next to her on the couch. I stood nearby BEGGING to hold the new baby. Jennifer cut her eyes over to Mom in a very 'adult-like' manner and said, "Momma, nuh-uh." In other words, you better think this over good, Lee Lea, before handing the baby off to her.
29. When our aunt Billie Jean brought her son Paxton home from the hospital, I climbed over in the bassinet with him while Jenny exclaimed, "Oh Jean Jean! Thank you for getting us a brother!"'
28. Jennifer was just learning to ride a 'big girl' bike out in our driveway, and I was cruising around in an early 80's version of a Power Wheels. Jennifer had instructed me prior to her ride that I was to only operate on the lowest speed. When she appeared safely perched on her banana seat, I gave the Power Wheels a little juice and sped toward her in hot pursuit. She promptly hopped off the bike, swirled around with her hands on her hips, yelled, "Lauren! You mean, lyin' sister!" and stormed off in a huff.
27. In a "Dear Santa" letter she wrote in first grade, Jennifer asked him to bring her a new doll. Then, in her thoughtful way, implored him to bring our mother a new pair of panties. Poor Mom didn't find out about the request until she read the published letter in our town's newspaper.
26. Growing up, our family went on as many boat trips as we could squeeze into one year. Once, when Jenny was in first grade, Dad picked her up from school early so we could head out of town for one of these trips. He signed her out in the office, casually strolled out to the parking lot and threw her, along with her full bookbag, on the back of his motorcycle- all in his total haphazard style. As he was pulling off, several teachers chased him down and told him he shouldn't ride with her like that, especially with no helmets. "She knows to hold on tight," he remarked, and they sped away.
25. In elementary school, Jen and I had to go door-to-door selling magazines. We were walking down the street and noticed a big, black dog lying out in front of a house. He stood up and approached us. I took off running as fast as my little six-year old legs would carry me while Jen just sat tight and watched the spectacle unfold. The dog chased me down and took a huge chunk of flesh out of my rear (I still have the scar). Crying and furious that the dog had picked me, I yelled at her, "What were you thinking just walking around back there! Why didn't you run too??!" "Lauren," she calmly replied in her best eight-year old version of our mother's voice, "haven't they taught you in school not to run from dogs? It just makes them want to chase you. You're supposed to stay calm." Oh.
24. As previously mentioned, we loved to water-ski and lived for it in the summer. There was nothing like getting suited up and slathered down with Coppertone for a day on the lake. This particular summer, I'd decided I was going to teach myself to slalom. I talked Jen into kneeboarding beside me while I skiied along on two skis. I'd then grab a hold to the top of her head to stabilize myself and shake one of my skis loose. Well, it all went according to plan until I couldn't find the ski-slip for my loose foot. I flailed around for a few moments with one free leg kicking the air and my steadying hand pulling Jen's hair before I finally crashed. She was a trooper, and it made for a funny home video.
23. We were living in a rental house for a year and one afternoon, in an attempt to beat the boredom that was setting in, the two of us decided to have a little unconventional fun. Our old house had a wooden staircase, and we slid down it every way possible - in sleeping bags, pillow cases, or just plain ol' panties. The rental house had a carpeted staircase so we were going to have to be creative with our sliding method. I had a slick-backed board that went with an old train set and thought it'd make the perfect sled. Jen warned me saying it'd probably go way too fast and wouldn't work as well as our old sleeping bag/wooden-staircase trick. Throwing caution to the wind and a few pillows at the foot of the stairs, I had Jen hold the board steady until I gave her the all-clear. I signaled for the release and when she did, it took about .5 second for me to reach the end of the staircase. Unfortunately, we hadn't accounted for my lightning-speed momemtum catapulting me into the afacing wall. She laid rolling around at the top of the steps, laughing at the crumpled heap of pillows, train set board, and me.
22. One time in highschool, Jennifer, my boyfriend Matthew, another friend of our's, and I decided we were all going to a party. The only trouble was we didn't know where the party was being held. We thought we knew the general direction of town where the party was, so we loaded into Matthew's truck and took off. About what we thought was half-way there, Matthew decided he had to go to the bathroom and it couldn't wait. He pulled to the side of the road and hopped out. Another vehicle was headed our way and would surely hit the truck if it wasn't pulled over further. Jen told me to jump in the driver's seat and move the truck, "And hurry! Fast! That car's coming!" In all of our panic, we forgot to tell Matthew we were moving. I gave it the gas and heard, "OH MY GOSH! MY FOOT!" I'd run over Matthew's foot. Needless to say, we didn't go to the party after that, just straight back home. (And he still married me!)
21. One day, the three of us sisters were coming home from Jackson. Around Carthage, Jennifer decided she'd let our younger sister Lindsey take the wheel to give her some more experience. She did just fine until we came up on a car traveling at the speed of smell. Seeing there was plenty of time and room, we encouraged Lindsey to pass. She eased over into the left side of the road but never sped up. Apparently she hadn't been taught the concept in driving school. In the oncoming lane, an eighteen-wheeler topped the hill heading straight for us. I remember feeling as though I was frozen in time, and truly, images of my life started to flash through my mind. Jennifer was screaming, "Speed up! Speed up! Speed up!" Thankfully, Lindsey got around the car just in the nick of time, and Jen found her seat back at the helm for the remainder of the drive.
20. It's been established. Lindsey wasn't a very speedy learner when it came to driving. Jen, being the patient, doting, mothering big sis that she is, took every opportunity to help teach her. She let Lindsey drive through our quiet neighborhood one day and then ease into the driveway to park. Lindsey put Jennifer out at the mailbox so she could get used to driving alone. Lindsey pulled down the driveway and then stepped out of the car, forgetting to, yep, put the car in park, much less turn the car off. Jennifer jumped in the driver's seat just in time to stop the car before it rolled into the pile of bricks at the end of the driveway.

...So there's the start to our countdown of 31-derful memories!