Sunday, December 27, 2015

This Too Shall Pass

(An awesome night of ice-skating with best friends. Thankful for great Christmas memories!)

I cannot be more thankful for the past two weeks of chemo-free bliss. Though you wouldn't think two weeks would make much difference, it has actually been a relief from the constant droll of the normal chemo schedule.

I would say this past holiday has been harder than I expected. When you face a disease that constantly overshadows your life, it seems extremely easy to let your mind reminisce on the past. Days that seemed hard then now look heavenly. As I have talked to fellow cancer-fighters, I have found that Christmas can be two-faced. On one side, you enjoy the incredible time with your loved ones. Yet in the back of your mind, you dread the thought that next year could easily be far worse.

With that in mind, I find that my best option is to press on. The end is drawing closer with every round of chemotherapy. My Stem Cell Transplant is quickly arriving, and I can finally let my mind dwell on the reality that I will soon be able to return to a "normal life." I don't think anyone that has not had a true relationship with cancer really understands how much cancer really takes away. It seems the general conception of chemotherapy is that it stinks - but you will get through it. 

I truly wish it was that easy . . .

(My ever so faithful pump, kindly filling me with cancer-killing drugs)

Seeing that it is now Monday, I will be heading to the hospital at 8:00 for the first day of a five-day stay.  After doing this every three weeks for the past nine months, I have actually mastered the art of surviving five days of chemo terror. 

Benadryl (25 mLs) = knock myself out . . .

When dealing with these drugs for so long, I have learned it is better to sleep through the nausea rather than brave it out. Being tough just leads to vomiting and extreme discomfort. (I feel sick just thinking about it!)

As I stated above, thankfully this too shall pass. 

For now, I have an amazingly strong and supportive family, a mind-blowing Oncology Team of doctors and favorite nurses, and faith in a God that never leaves my side.

Many people assume cancer-fighters would have reason to pull away from God. Yet the ones I have talked with all seem to have drawn closer to Him. When your only life-line is the One who entrusted you with such a disease, what else can you do but trust Him? He holds the the true hope and reason for our very existence. (If you want to know what this hope looks like- read my other post here!)

Though I may never understand the reason God gave this cancer to myself, fellow-cancer fighting friends, and those I don't even know- may never be revealed here on earth. However, I cannot imagine how much sweeter Heaven will be when we all reach our final destination . . . cancer-free, worry-free, and completely healed.

Thank you all for your constant prayers. I know that so many of you are upholding us through this journey. You are an incredible blessing!

(Meet the newest addition to our Crew! This is "Lego." He is my seven week old yellow lab that shows true potential as my cancer therapy pup. He could not have come at a better time.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lessons of Love from Cancer

I am so thankful to have a family that has loved, supported, and carried me these past eight months! Below is a guest post by Mom. Her words reflect our lessons we have learned from cancer. Enjoy! 

Dearest members of Caleb's Crew,

As we reflect on this past year of 2015, it has been the worst year of our lives- and yet the most life-changing. God has taught us many sacred lessons, that could only be learned in this dark valley. 

First of all, we have learned that we are never alone. In the most terrifying moments, God is there. When you are in the "cannot-breathe" moments, God will make Himself known. He shows up in such unexpected ways. The words of a hymn will come to mind, 
"Every joy or trial fallen from above- Traced upon our dial by the Son of love. We may trust Him fully all for us to do. They who trust him wholly, find him wholly true."
The words of a friend, a smile from a stranger, a letter in the mail- are all gifts. As you pray for us, there is a sense of relief. Like we can exhale deeply. Your prayers breathe life back into us.
One of my favorite memories from this past year is when one of Caleb's resident doctors came and prayed with us before Caleb's first chemotherapy treatment. One of our greatest fears was met with the faith of a friend. God's confirmations are all around us.

Secondly, we are learning to be thankful for every moment of breath we have. Every day, hour, minute, second . . . is a gift. That is why it is called the "present". (Not very original, but I loved it) Treasure the precious "snapshots" of life. Be on the lookout for them, they are everywhere. Caleb is leading us in this. He is teaching us how to be thankful by example. Thankfulness changes your perspective. 

Last of all, love looks so different now. It is so beautiful in its unrehearsed, spontaneous in a life-giving way. Did you know that love gives life? It's like water to a dry plant. Children blossom under the care of love, we as adults flourish and grow. Unconditional love has no motive except the best for the other person. Love dies to itself to help others. In our darkest moments, love shines so bright- it is breath-taking. There are no politics in love- it cannot be silent or neutral. Love has to act, to bridge gaps. You have to smile when love shows up in a spontaneous meal, or a Starbucks gift card, or Caleb making us laugh so hard that we are crying and begging him not to say another word . . . which he of course does. :) 

And that is what brings me to all of you. You have shown us “what love looks like”. You have carried our heartaches as your own. You have given and sacrificed to bring the relief we have been comforted by. Many have given out of your own need, you have prayed for Caleb as if he was your own child. You have showered us with love. Our children’s faith in God has been strengthened- because of you. We will be forever indebted to each of you. You have taught us that in our darkest moments, love will show up.

Merry Christmas, Caleb’s Crew!

It is an honor and privilege to be on this journey with each of you.


(My incredible parents, Scott and Tina)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Candid Cancer Conversation with Caleb

As I sit and reflect on the recent happenings since my last blog, I can't help being overwhelmed by the darkness of cancer. As many of you have been following my story, you may remember a post this past summer, "Dealing in Death." Back in June I was facing the realities of what this cancer is capable of doing. Now I have experienced those realities on a more personal level. 

Since June, I have lost six fellow Ewing's fighters that I followed and with whom I communicated. Though I may not have known them personally, I travelled their journey from afar. Connected to each other through our similar cancer, I grew to love and pray for them. Now they are gone. So what does this mean? Why even mention this?

Cancer is more than just chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Cancer extends beyond the physical. 

I find myself in a difficult position. Part of me wants to explode with excitement as I finally see the tiny light at the end of my "treatment tunnel." Yet the overshadowing realities of what still lies ahead continue to bear down on my spirits.

I don't know if I can easily explain this, but it's like a roller-coaster. One moment you are riding high with the excitement of normal life in view, and the next moment you are crushed with the pain and suffering of both your fellow cancer fighters and yourself. The ability to process the pain of so many difficulties seems out of reach.

Although my doctors have cut two entire months off of treatment, I struggle with the realities that at very best my cancer has an extremely good chance of returning. I see a glimpse of normality ahead, yet still must process the fact that as I sit typing one of my favorite Ewing's Sarcoma fighters lays in the ICU as her cancer continues to spread. (Link to follow her story and pray)

Maybe I'm rambling. Maybe this doesn't make a lot of sense to you. However, in the past few weeks I have had to process others' comments about my cancer and this is sort of my response. 

So in conclusion, here's the ending to my rather blunt and straight-forward post.

I write this blog so you can truly see what cancer is like. All of the raw and real posts are to display the true realities of life with Stage 4 bone cancer. If these bother you, please stop reading. I don't want to offend or hurt anyone. However, I'm not going to beat around the bush when it comes to my cancer.

As for a brief update, my scans have continued to show that the cancer in my shoulder is dying. Because of the tumor's large size, we have decided on an alternate route to surgical removal. The "Tumor Board" decided that we will not do a de-bulking surgery, but rather leave my tumor in my shoulder where it now acts as a joint between my arm and shoulder blade. Though this may seem like a free home for the cancer to return, my oncologist said that if the cancer is going to return, it will do so whether there is a tumor or not. 

Please pray for me as my upcoming Stem Cell Transplant will take place some time in February or March. The procedure will be rather difficult, but very necessary! ;) 

Also pray most of all that the cancer stays in remission for the full five years. Due to the very aggressive treatment, once you finish there isn't much more your body can handle. The true fight with Ewing's begins once my body is in remission. The statistics for staying cancer free are rather depressing. Once  I finally finish my chemotherapy, the true battle to be cancer-free will begin. 

I've been fighting this terrible beast for 9 months now. Thanks to your constant prayers and support I am happy to say that there is no chance of me quitting! (Never was optional) 

Love to all! Have a blessed Christmas with your families. Cherish every moment!

(Hannah and I after our Chemotherapy/EchoCardiogram visit)