Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From Mom...

Jen has had two walks today and has been her same cheerful sweet little self. She claims that Mattie and I gang up on her about her walks but really she knows we are taking good care of her. She is eating very little, she is on TPN -only what she thinks would taste good and not be irritating to her system. She likes to play scrabble on the iPad but the Vandy wifi was not cooperating this morning so we had a crochet lesson and made a granny square. When I talked to her a few minutes ago she was crocheting so she will probably be turning out afghans soon - you may want to go ahead and put an order in. God has been most gracious and our precious is doing fine right now - her voice is strong and sweet and her eyes are bright and smiling.

Prayerful Ponderings:
Jennifer contracted c.diff (a gastrointestinal infection)over the weekend that is clearing. Praise the Lord. She is getting extra nourishment thru IV. Please pray that she continues to feel well and that she finds herself strengthened and energized with each day. Signs of Graft-vs-Host disease should start to appear within 7 to 14 days of the transplant. Please pray that these symptoms will be minimal or, even better, nonexistent. Join us in praising the Lord for wonderful caregivers and that He has been so very faithful thus far and we are confident He will continue to be.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Day 0 - Transplant Day

Hi, all,

Jenn will have her infusion of the donor's marrow around 10:00 Nashville time. She woke up this morning with nausea. Also the drugs she will receive to battle host graft disease cause nausea so please keep praying for strength to endure and for God's supernatural protection and provision for all her needs. He never fails and has been so gracious to hold her up so faithfully.

Your prayers are essential and we are so grateful for your faithfulness on Jenn's behalf. Please pray for the marrow to successfully graft over the next days and weeks and for strength and courage for Jenn and Matt as they battle this cancer. We know He will answer them for His glory and their blessing.


Sent from my iPad

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

...In His Hands

He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands,
He's got the whole world in His hands.

Pretty simple. Pretty redundant. Pretty powerful stuff that little childhood song. I can remember singing that song with Jennifer when we were little. It's one of my all time favorites. Though I couldn't articulate this at age four, I loved the imagery it conjured up. I loved imagining crawling into His hands.... Sometimes, while singing, I'd get carried away and envision singing that song 'in His hands'.... Sometimes my imagination would have me laughing and playing 'in His hands'... Sometimes I'd be napping 'in His hands'.... It really didn't matter what I pictured myself doing; the common theme- I was IN HIS HANDS. Can't think of a better place to be. Even now as an adult, when I'm having a particulary rough time, I can crawl into bed at night and imagine that's where I am- in His hands. Pretty good sleep when that's the last thing you see in your mind's eye. And I love that verse that reminds us nothing can snatch us out of His hands. NOTHING.

Quick update on Jen... I don't have many details since I'm not in Nashville this week, and I haven't gotten a chance to speak with Jennifer directly. Mom did text this a few hours ago:

'Jen is doing well. No nausea yet, a little tired but still doing her walks in the hall. Just finished last round of chemo. Starts radiation tomorrow. Twice a day for 3 days. Hope all is well there.'

Then these texts from Jen via Mom:

'I've had a good bit of sinus pressure, but it is starting to get better. I could not eat because of it. I took my shower and some meds for it. We just finished eating.... ' 'Will you let Lauren know I couldn't talk earlier? I just can't talk right now. It hurts to move my mouth.'

This is it, "Crunch Time," so they say. They are cleaning house on Jen's cancer, and we are all praying fervently for God's hand to be upon her and her caregivers as she goes through this particularly grueling week. She is in the hospital currently, back on the 11th floor where she spent the better part of last September and October. We are hoping she will be moved to her old room, or at least one like it, soon. It was nice and roomy compared to the one she is in right now. Tomorrow is Day - 3. Counting up to Day 0, Saturday, Transplant Day. Then we will begin counting forward, and are hopeful Jen will get to come home around Day 21 or so, though we won't be alarmed if it's longer than that. We are so grateful to all of you for your concern and prayers and, "thank our God upon every remembrance of you."

Our prayer for Jennifer tonight:

Father God, You are a Mighty and Holy God we serve. Forgive us, for our service to You cannot be all that Your majesty deserves. Thank you that one day we will serve and praise You for all eternity in the way we were meant to, the way we were made to. Father, we put Jennifer in Your hands tonight. Your care and provision and love for her is more than we could ever manage to fathom. We are finite creatures trusting in an infinite and sovereign God. We cannot understand all that is going on right now but we can trust it is all part of Your perfect plan. We rest knowing that You will be glorified. Your glory should always be our utmost desire. Father, forgive us. For all too often, it is our glory we are concerned with. Thank you for Your patience and for Your unending, unconditional love for us. Thank You for this love that sent Your only Son to be our ransom paid. Father, hold Jennifer up through this trial. Keep her close to You. Calm her and give her Your Peace. Let her rest easy knowing the Great Physician is tending to her every need. Give her body and mind strength to endure this test. Give her confidence knowing You will be glorifiied through this; remembering that if it weren't for Your glory, all of this would be in vain. Father, walk with her into the radiation room tomorrow and let her be overwhelmed by Your presence there. Lord, protect her organs that could be potentially damaged. They will drop lead blocks in front of her lungs on Round 3. Father, it is my personal plea that You will put Your hands on those parts of her which need to be preserved for a baby one day. Your hands are more powerful than any lead block. After all, Your hands hold the whole world. And tonight, Father, we ask You to hold Jennifer and let her know in the deepest recesses of her soul- You will never let go and nothing can snatch her from Your grasp. You have got this all under control. Praise the Lord.

The Vandy Verse:
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. John 10:28-29

Somethin' for the Samples:
How your cards, phone calls, and blog messages encourage Jennifer! Please keep them coming! I do not have her address at the hospital yet but I do know if you send a card to her and Matt's home it will reach her promptly and safely. Here's their home address once again:

Jennifer Sample
7400 George Gaines Road
Nashville, TN 37221

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Perks of the Job

Jen had a meeting with her transplant doctor this morning that we felt went exceptionally well. He is the director of stem cell transplants at Vanderbilt and is a leading expert in graft-vs-host disease (what can occur when a patient's body tries to fight off the donor's cells; GVHD is likely to occur in most patients, but with varying degrees of severity). All this to say she feels confident that she is in good hands. We found out her donor is a 25-year old male (nationality still unknown)who has been exposed to CMV- a virus that commonly causes complications in transplant patients. This is good news, though. Because her donor has been exposed to this virus, Jennifer's new immune system will 'recognize' it and know how to fight it off should she come into contact with it. Results from Jennifer's bone marrow biopsy and lumbar puncture, which were administered Monday, came back and again are cancer-free! Wahoo! All involved seem very optimistic about the transplant and its outcome.

It's been gray, cold, and even snowy here in Nashville but God has sent Jen rays of warm sunshine all week long. Two that stand out in particular...

"Who doesn't want a free cookie?!" Jen and I went to a nearby bakery for lunch the other day. We were about halfway through our soup and sandwiches when a lady who worked there came over with a giant, not to mention complimentary, chocolate chip cookie for us to share. She explained that she couldn't help but notice Jen's scarf covering her bare head and the mask Jen wore into the bakery. She further explained that she had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and is facing her first rounds of treatment in the coming month. She sweetly asked if Jennifer had some type of cancer. The two of them visited for a while and Jen was able to give her pointers and calm some of her fears. As she turned to walk away, we asked her name so we could pray more specifically for her. So, Robin, we're thankful for our Divine appointment with you and we'll be praying.

"Winner, winner pasta dinner!" Jen and Matt are frequent patrons of Amerigo's right up from Vandy. When she and I went there for lunch today, we sat in her and Matt's usual spot in the bar. Our waitress recognized Jen right off but knew she'd changed some since the last time they'd seen each other. Jenifer explained to her what's been going on in her world since September. The waitress expressed such genuine concern and caring I assumed she and Jennifer were closer than mere acquaintances. When she walked away, I asked Jen her name. She had no idea! We had a lovely meal and as we asked for the check, she happily told us, "It's on the house!" Then, looking at Jennifer, "And you get better, come back in and I'll buy you a bottle of wine!" What a bright spot in this dreary day!

Jen's sickness is a 24-hour, 7-day a week job. She is constantly working at staying on top of her meds, staying far way from as many germs as she can, staying rested up and well-nourished...exhausting stuff. But more than that, she can't call in sick from this job. She can't clock-out at the end of the day and leave it for tomorrow. She can't even go in late. It's with her all the time, wherever she goes. But boy the perks! No, not a good health care package or 2 months paid vacation. Even better. She gets to share her story and speak hope, love, and encouragement into lives who desperately need it and who are really no more than strangers. But, and I don't mean to speak for her (though I think she'd agree), this is one job she'll be glad to be fired from.

Prayerful Ponderings:
Please remember Robin in your prayers for Jennifer.

Monday, January 9, 2012

God Again?

Today Jennifer had a lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy to ensure her body is still cancer-free as prep work for the upcoming transplant. Next Monday, January 16th, she will be admitted to the hospital (the first time since September 13) for bone marrow ablation- the ablation is a round of treatment that includes two rounds of chemo and three rounds of radiation. It will wipe out Jennifer's bone marrow's ability to regenerate so that her body will be more receptive to the donor's marrow. Also, it will enable her bone marrow to regenerate as the donor's marrow.

This round of chemo, as it relates to previous rounds, is considerably stronger because the goal is to completely obliterate her bone marrow. (Before, some of her marrow survived the treatments that killed all the cancer cells.) This will also render her immune system defeated.

Furthermore, this will be her first treatment of radiation. Here is how she describes it:

I stand in this room, in this contraption that looks like something you'd build in your garage. It's like a three-sided cage. I'll stand in it with a bicycle seat in it for me to rest on should I need it. There are handles that will be at my side that are similar to bicycle handles. They are there for support and stabilization as well. There's a thing that looks like a huge camera lens. They aim the lens and shoot an invisible beam at me. This goes on for about five to seven minutes with me facing it and then I'll turn around and it'll be done again for about five to seven minutes with me looking away from it. It looks like something out of a science-fiction movie! The radiation will help my system get rid of any remaining leukemia cells that may still be lingering, or hiding out, in cutaneous tissue that would go undetected otherwise because it's not in the bone. I'll do that twice a day for three days. After the third dose, lead blocks will be hanging in the cage to minimize radiation damage to my lungs.

On Saturday, January 21st, Jennifer will be infused with the donor's either peripheral cells or marrow (Jen wasn't sure and she hasn't asked). She will get to keep her blood type, which she is very excited about, because the donor's matches hers. She doesn't think she'll get to meet the donor and has yet to discuss it with her physicians. January 21st will be Day 0 of an estimated 30-day stint at Vandy, hopefully very similar to her stay before. Although, her physicians anticipate her being sicker with this stay in the hospital due to the intensity and life-threatening characteristics of the treatments.

I received a text message yesterday from a sweet friend who lives here in Nashville with her family and who, along with her mother- and sister-in-law, provided meals for us during Jennifer's previous hospital stay. She was asking for an update and if she could again help us through this next stay. In a list of helpful things she was offering, her predictive text auto-corrected, "Food again?" to "God again?" When I read it, I laughed a little to myself and thought, "Exactly. God again."

So here we are again, Lord, humbly yet confidently petitioning Your heavenly throne for the grace and mercy and healing we're so desperate for. Thank You, again, for loving us the way You do. Thank You for reminding me yesterday that You love imperfect us no less than You love Your perfect Son. Thank You for communicating with us and for allowing us to communicate with You, the God of the universe, the Almighty, the great I AM. God again. Again today, again tomorrow, again for eternity. Let us come to you again and again and again enjoying You and Your goodness to us forever.

Prayerful Ponderings:
Please pray that Jen will make it through these upcoming procedures, that the adverse effects will be minimal, and that the treatment will be successful. Please pray that God will continue to sustain Jennifer and her caregivers. Pray for safety in travel as others will be coming in to help. Pray that Jennifer's focus will remain steadfast upon her Savior to hold her up through this trial He is so lovingly and tenderly seeing her through. Please lift up the exceptional health care providers who are attending to Jennifer, that they may have God's wisdom and guidance to be used by Him in her treatment. Pray for Matt to have peace of mind as her primary caregiver as he simultaneously endures the rigors of his medical training. Please pray for folks who are being touched by God through Jennifer's trial, that hearts will be softened and thirsts will be quenched by His Living Water.