Friday, October 28, 2011

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!


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 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.)

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.)


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 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

T-shirt Design

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: 


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!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Heroes, Part II

The doctors did meet on Monday and are in the process of thinking through the next best course of action. The doctor who met with Jen and Matt Monday afternoon was very optimistic and told them there was every reason to be hopeful. When they hear a confirmed 'go ahead' from the doctors, Matt will be updating the blog with a medical synopsis of where Jen has been, where she is currently, and where the next steps will lead in her treatment. As we wait out the deliberation, I thought I'd finish up the last of my two part series on my heroes...

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Walking back from lunch one day last week, as we neared the hospital, Matt looked up and noticed a helicopter landing on the roof-top. Knowing the severity of cases who arrive via helicopter, he, sort of off-the-cuff, said, "At least Jen's not on that thing..." My mind immediately flashbacked to a night in September nine years ago when my other sister arrived at University Medical Center in Jackson via, you guessed it, a helicopter. True to the nature of helicopter cases, she was a severe one. So severe, in fact, that doctors in Kosciusko feared she'd never make it to Jackson alive.

On the evening of Saturday, September 7, 2002, Lindsey and her boyfriend (now husband) Eli had eaten  supper with his parents and then decided to take a dip in the Dew family's hot tub. Eli had a sore shoulder from the Friday night football game, and Lindsey was suffering a sprained ankle from a tumbling accident. Both thought the hot tub would be therapeutic for some of their aches and pains so they hopped into Lindsey's car and headed into town to get her swimsuit from our house. She buckled into the driver's seat, while Eli slid into the passenger seat. About a half mile from the dirt road turn-off where the Dews live, a truck, piloted by a young man with a host of toxic substances in his bloodstream, veered into Lindsey's lane and hit her car, on the driver's side, head on. The metal frame around the windshield was bent and driven through the left side of Lindsey's skull. The whole left side of her body was crushed, and she was unconscious. Eli hit the windshield and briefly lost consciousness as well. When he came to, blood was streaming down Lindsey's face, and he couldn't loosen her grip on the steering wheel. He began to scream her name in an effort to help her regain consciousness. A man, who had been traveling behind them, witnessed the crash and called 911. Lindsey was rushed to the hospital in Kosciusko. She quit breathing several times on the operating table but the doctors were finally able to achieve some level of stability. They made the decision to have her airlifted to UMC. Just before the helicopter lifted off, a doctor told our dad to say his good-byes to her. She would likely not make it to Jackson alive. The EMT in the helicopter recounted the lift-off scene for us days later when she stopped by to visit Lindsey in the hospital: "As we lifted off the ground, we were desperately trying to sustain this young girl's life long enough to reach Jackson. I glanced out the window for a moment and saw a circle of friends, with hands joined and heads bowed, lifting her up in prayer. I knew right then she was going to make it."

Our mother received word of the accident just moments after. Because she was already in Jackson helping care for our ailing grandmother, she was there at the hospital waiting on the helicopter to arrive. A nurse told her Lindsey was en route and should be landing shortly. Mom ran outside and searched the night sky. In a few minutes, she heard the rotors, saw the lights and thought, "My baby is in that helicopter. It sure looks like a very dangerous thing for her to be doing..." They were doing construction on that part of the building, and Mom could see a huge crane on the landing pad. "I sure hope they are very careful."

My older sister and I arrived from Oxford just as the doctors were performing surgery on Lindsey to remove pieces of bone from her brain. After a long, sleepness night, we were finally allowed into the ICU where she lay, nearly lifeless. The shock of the tubes and lines, head bandages and braces, was almost more than I could bear. An overwhelming feeling of fear nearly suffocated me as we walked into her room. The pump of the ventilator and the beeping of the heart monitor were surreal but I do remember praying, "Don't let these noises stop. These noises mean life." After surgery on her arm and knee that afternoon, she was admitted to a room in the neuro-surgery step-down unit. The neuro-surgeon who performed the brain surgery Saturday night, visited her room to debrief us on what to expect. "We are monitoring for brain swelling. The chances of this are highly likely due to the tear in the lining of her brain and could cause serious problems for her. Even if her brain does not swell, we could be looking at two solid years of a vegetative state. She may then start to regain some cognizant abilities but will likely be starting from scratch. She will have to be taught how to feed herself, how to walk, and maybe even how to communicate." Ugh. I felt all the wind knocked out of me. Brain swelling. A vegetable. Relearning to eat. What were we going to do?

That night, Mom, clinging to the side of Lindsey's bed, begged God for healing. "But," she told Him, "she's Your's. She belongs to You. You do with her what You will. If You choose to take her or leave her, prepare us for either." Mom let go and gave her to God. Almost immediately, we started seeing improvement. The next day she was opening her eyes and recognizing our faces. The next she sat up a bit and took a sip of juice. The next, she put her feet on the floor and stood for a few moments while holding onto Mom. Her milestones were simple yet we celebrated each of them as though she was winning the Olympics every single day. Never did her brain show any signs of swelling.

Even though her mind was incredibly cloudy and her body relentlessly sore, who she was in the deepest recesses of her soul still shined through. She hated her breathing treatments, and would say, in a foggy haze, "No thank you," to the nurse when she came in to administer them. When the doctors would come in to talk to Mom and assess Lindsey's condition, she always answered with, "No sir," "Yes sir," and "Will you please be quiet now?" When Eli would come to see her, even though she didn't know his name, she would ask him if he was studying and trying hard in school. If he had a test, she would tell him, "Well, let's go over it." Once, when he was visiting her, Mom sat quietly in the corner. Linds said to him, "You see that lady over there. She's crazy." Oh, if all moms were as 'crazy' as her, the world might be a lot better off.

On Friday, September 13th, not quite a full week from the wreck, our miracle was wheeled out of UMC. Three Friday nights later she was being crowned homecoming queen, and by the end of football season she was back on the field cheerleading. It was a long road to 'full recovery,' and there will always be repercussions from the brain injury to deal with. The confidence she once exuded has waned a bit but her unmatched kindness still lingers. She has always chosen to see the best in everyone and, to my knowledge, has never made excuses for herself or her convictions. When she was at Ole Miss with me the following year, I asked her if she felt like God had given her a second chance since she was so nearly taken from us. "O gosh, no, Lauren. We all get one chance. It just wasn't my time to go. I'm still living in this one chance, just like you are." She's exactly right. We all get one go, better make it a good one. Today she is an occupational therapist, inspired by the men and women who worked with her during recovery.

I have prayed for as long as I can remember to be a better sister. How clever of God to teach me how to be one by using my very own sisters to shape me. We all have people He puts in our lives to 'sharpen' us. I'm so thankful He chose such wonderfully inspiring people for me.

Last night, lying in bed, I realized the day we wheeled Lindsey out of UMC, September 13th, was the day Jennifer was told she had mixed-lineage leukemia. Just as God displayed Himself as Sovereign Lord,  Miraculous Healer, and Great Physician in Lindsey's life, we expect nothing less from Him in Jennifer's case. But if it's all the same to everyone else, I think next August 31st (and maybe every one from now until...) I'll lay down to sleep and might not bother to get up 'til October 1st. Like Greenday said, "Wake me up when September ends."

Prayerful Ponderings:
Please pray for wisdom as the doctors plan through the next steps of Jen's treatment. Pray that God will continue to sustain Jennifer and Matt through this very trying time for their family. Pray that the Lord will continue to draw us closer to Himself, that He will receive all the glory, for it is all due Him. Pray that we will be given eyes of faith to see His hand clearly at work in our lives. What a great God we serve.

THERE'S STILL TIME! If you haven't gotten a chance to yet, I'd love to get some more b'day videos for Jen. If you're unable to send a video, then a comment on the blog would be such a sweet gift too! Thank you for the outpouring of love and support she's already experienced during the last three weeks.

THERE HAVE BEEN LOTS OF QUESTIONS ABOUT BECOMING A BONE MARROW DONOR. A dear friend and a precious cousin of our's have been doing some research, and we will get all that information to you as soon as we have a more clear understanding of how to go about all this. Apparently, I lied when I told you it was an 'easy process.' So says the girl who only had to ride an elevator and have blood drawn to see if she was a match. My apologies.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Holy, Hole-y Tunnel

"Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. Make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him. Tell of all His wonderful acts. Rejoice in His holy name. Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." Psalm 105: 1-4

When I taught second grade, we memorized a verse every week. As the weeks went by, we added a verse to our collection and would review them every morning. By the end of the year, we were reviewing up to 33 verses each morning. The verses above are the ones we learned the first two weeks of school, and we reviewed them every single day until the end of the year. Now, on top of that I taught second grade for five years. After reciting this passage roughly 180 days out of the last five years, you can imagine how it is embedded in my heart. Never have I had a direct application for these verses like I did last night. Matt called with the news of the second bone marrow biopsy. Here's a summary of where Jen is at this point in the treatment, in Matt's words:

"In the first bone marrow biopsy, 70% of the cells were cancerous (or blasts). At day 14 (this past Thursday), a second bone marrow biopsy was conducted and the total bone marrow cells that are cancerous is at 7%. Sounds like great news, doesn't it? It is! But, it comes as a little mixed. We were hoping for 0% blast count but in reality expected some. The good news is the blast count is down so low. The bad news is some cancer is still lingering. This mixed news (how fitting for mixed-lineage leukemia to have mixed news!) portends a good outcome but she is still very much in the thick of this. Ideally, we are looking for Jen to be cancer-free. The docs will meet on Monday to discuss the chemo regimen and make decisions on dosage adjustments, if any are needed. We are continuing along hopeful but understand we are still years from a cure."

Right now, from a worldy perspective, there is not even a light at the end of the tunnel yet. But thankfully, God is puncturing holes in this dark tunnel Jen is traveling down and pouring His light and love in from above. Friday night's news was another hole ushering Light into this proverbial tunnel.

Prayerful Ponderings:
Praise the Lord for a significantly reduced blast count. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors in their meeting on Monday. Please prayerfully consider joining the bone marrow registry on-line at Lift up Jennifer's donor in prayer that he/she may be prepared and willing for what will be asked of him/her. Continue to pray for Matt. He went back to work on Wednesday but is still spending a lot of his time during the day and all of his nights with Jen. He is setting a great example for all of us as he is daily on an active lookout for answered prayer.

Vandy Verse:
...They called to the Lord, and He answered them. Psalm 99:6