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.


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