Hope and Expectation….Our Story Continued

One call led to another and plans were made for the following weekend for Terry to come over to my parents’ house and have dinner. However, this was not a date, a singles gathering had already been planned and he agreed to show up.

The night was full of fun and laughter. He lingered after the other guests left. During the course of that conversation, I learned he knew more about me than he initially disclosed. In fact, he had seen me before I ever met him personally.

He told me that during Christmas with his family, they were watching the newly taped version of the Messiah we had done that year. While watching the TV screen, he saw me, pointed me out to his sister and asked, “Who’s that girl?” So, Marie proceeded to tell him that I was divorced and had two little boys.

There were two things that amazed me from learning this from Terry. The first was that he actually picked me out of the crowd and pointed to me on the tv screen. (Keep in mind we were dressed in full period costume, even our heads were covered.) All he could really see was my face. The second thing that struck me was that after learning I was divorced and had two children, he still had an interest in meeting me.

When he left that evening, I found myself beginning to wonder if he would call again. There had been no hint of affection during the evening, but there was no indication that he had been turned off either. The next couple of days, I found myself rushing to answer the phone every time it rung, especially late in the evening. I was elated when I heard his voice on the other; however I didn’t allow my excitement to exude into our conversation. I maintained complete composure, almost to the point I had myself convinced it was no big deal….but it was.

The following Sunday night we decided that he would come over and I would cook for him. You know, they say the best way to a man’s heart it through his tummy. This would be his first encounter with my dad and also the first time since our outing to the park that he would have some time with the boys. As the events of the evening unfolded, it still amazes me that he came back.

Our normal Sunday evening routine was going to church and coming home afterward for a light snack supper, usually consisting of popcorn, chips, crackers, etc. After the initial painless introduction to my dad, it seemed the evening go off without a hitch. Until my dad realized that I was cooking and were off the norm, suddenly he began ranting and raving about how we didn’t cook on Sunday night and he wasn’t the least bit happy that I was cooking. Not only was I embarrassed, but felt certain that after that evening Terry would never show up on my doorstep again. Fortunately, the remainder of the evening turned out well. (Terry will give his version of this story because this is how Ned became known as Nitro)

The next day was Valentine’s Day and I had no expectation of talking to much less seeing Terry after Sunday evening; however, around 6 pm he called to ask if he could come by after work. Now after work for him was 11:30 because he was working second shift at the time. After the evening before, I wasn’t about to say no. So around 11:30 he showed up with a smile on his face and hands behind his back like a child trying to hide candy from his mother. As subtly as he could, he took the package from behind his back to reveal heart-shaped sugar cookies that he had picked up from Ingles.

“Happy Valentine’s Day. I didn’t a chance to get anything for you, so I thought I would at least bring you some cookies.” He said rather awkwardly, as if embarrassed by his gift.

“Thank you but I really didn’t expect anything you really didn’t have to bring anything.” I replied. Silence fell and it was almost a deafening silence. Suddenly I realized how foolish my statement had been to him. Why couldn’t I have just said a simple thank you? So, I tried to explain away the reason for my reply. Fortunately my explanation seemed to appease him.

We would spend the next few hours talking about our past relationships, hurts and hang-ups. Finally, I was growing weary and knew that early morning was coming quickly. So, we said our goodbyes and he headed out the door. I followed behind to lock the door.(more to come)

Laugh….Cry….Have one heck of a day!

Last night I went to Hendersonville First Baptist Church to hear their Christmas musical. I already had plans to attend but after an earnest plea on Facebook looking for a church whose music ministry might be performing a Children’s Christmas musical, I discovered that this musical was multi-generational.  Children, youth and adults all come together and sing together.  I was excited.

On Wednesday I asked Mom if she wanted to go with me and my friend Tima.  She said, “Sure.”  My heart was happy she wanted to go too.

Excitement and elation filled my thoughts throughout the day. It had been a long time since I went to any musical.  In fact, probably the last Christmas musical was one my children and I participated in at Biltmore Baptist Church 11 years ago.  The last Christmas Children’s Musical was “Mayhem in Bethlehem” presented at BBC 11 years ago.

Joy filled my heart as those precious children sang.  So filled with wonder and awe, the joy beamed from their faces into the crowd.  The innocence of youth. Lifting their voices high with praise to God.

As I sat there and listened, I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.  I looked up through the Adult Choir and I saw him standing there.  Tall and proud to be a part of it all.  Ned.  There he was.  Only he wasn’t there.  Instead of him being in his familiar spot, his friend and prayer partner Jim was there.  It was at that point I realized the sides had shifted.  The bases and altos now sat where the tenor and sopranos sat and vice versa.  I realized as the night wore on, it didn’t matter how the seating arrangement was.  He was there or at least I could see him.

As the evening drew to a close, Karen Scoggins along with the choir sang “Amazing Grace”  Now, if you’ve never heard her sing, trust me, she’s got pipes.  This dainty precious soul can sing.

I knew Mom was crying.  I didn’t dare look.  Our friend, Linda, reached over to console her.  Tima had her hand on her shoulder.  Still I dared not look.  Tears were already starting to form and I knew I might not be able to control them.  As the final verse started, Mom was holding Linda’s hand and said, “I know where he is and I know I’m going to see him again,”  Well, great.  Thanks Mom.  Tears festered and started to fall softly.  Finally I glanced over in her direction and said, “Did you not bring any Kleenex?”

“No, I didn’t” She replied.

Linda asked if everything was ok.  I told her we didn’t have Kleenex.  She offered her scarf.

As the last song started, I began thinking about Mamaw and I began to smile then chuckle. I had to control myself from laughing out load.  That’s about as difficult as keeping the tears from free-falling.  For those of you who know me, I laugh a lot.  Sometimes I squirrel laugh, that’s what my kids call it and sometimes I just laugh hard and loud; of course, according to Ned, nothing about me was ever quiet.  Why was I having to fight hard to keep from laughing hysterically?  Because I could just hear my precious Mamaw (Colleen) saying to me and mom, “You dummies!  What do you mean coming without bringing Kleenex?”

You see, my grandmother, well she was always prepared for the best and the worst.  She had Kleenex in every purse she owned and in about every pocket of every coat she owned.  She also had other things too, like certs, certs and more certs, tylenol, Advil, cough drops……you name it she had it.  Obviously, mom or I neither one takes after her.

Jimmy Valvano says, ” If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Well, these days I’ve been doing a lot of laughing and crying.  I’m not pretending it’s not raw and I’m not pretending it’s easy when you lost someone you love, especially around the holiday season.  What I am telling you that for everything there is a season and that’s what God’s word says.

Ecclesiastes 3 suns it up beautifully:

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.

I have seen the task that God has given the children of Adam to keep them occupied. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the good life. It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. I know that everything God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of him. Whatever is, has already been, and whatever will be, already is. However, God seeks justice for the persecuted.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8, 10-15‬ ‭CSB‬‬

A Miracle in the Making

Cancer…..stinks.  Pure and simple.  There’s hardly a good connotation that derives from hearing the word.  It’s a word that people hate to hear.  And yet, it seems  so commonplace these days.  I know plenty of people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer.  Some have survived.  Some have not.

In March of 2016, Ned (my dad) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Atypical Non-small cell adenocarcinoma in his right lung.  It was found in the fluid of his right lung.   There were no tumors, nothing to pinpoint the source.  It was just there.  His oncologist described it like this, “Imagine an island has fallen off into the ocean and you have no idea where the island came from.”

The prognosis: four months with no treatment. Nine to fifteen months with treatment. It wasn’t lengthy either way! However, if you know Ned, then you know he’s tenacious and determined. His determination wasn’t just for himself. It was also for my Mom. He didn’t want her to have to bury another husband. He felt like she was getting the raw end of the deal. He felt responsible and wanted to fight for her and for himself.

During his first visit with his oncologist, Dr. Navin Anthony, he asked the following question, after formal introductions. “I have one question before we get started. Do you believe in God?”

His response, “Yes, I do.”

To which Ned responded, “Good! I believe that God is going to use you to heal me!”

Ned decided to bring chemotherapy. First, he would need to have a PluerX catheter inserted into his right lung and a port.

About a week after his surgery, he began chemo! The initial treatment began with a three drug round-up. Avastin, Alimta and Carboplatin. These were administered every three weeks.

In May, he began having problems with his vision. A few weeks later, discovered he had a stroke. A stroke caused from Avastin. Therefore, it was dropped from his regimen.

Around the end of June, as we prayed diligently, the fluid production in the ling, stopped. Air began moving completely through his lung. CT scans began showing no visible signs of cancer. It was miracle.

After about six weeks, the PluerX tube was removed. Life was normal, except for every three weeks of treatment, with the chief complaint of tiredness.

On September 28, he had his last round of chemo. From September through April, he enjoyed life. He had some tiredness. Got winded more easily but really began living again.

In April, the CT Chest scan revealed swollen lymph nodes in the mediastinum. A bronchoscopy would reveal the cancer had returned. Ned was not surprised. He hadn’t been feeling up to par. However, it was disappointing and discouraging.

His PD-L1 was a 90% efficiency rate, meaning that made him a perfect candidate for Keytruda. The immunotherapy drug. The rating at 90% indicated that his cancer would most likely respond favorably.

He decided to proceed. He knew the risks and side effects associated with the drug. What we didn’t know is how his body would respond. His body didn’t like Keytruda. He was hyper-sensitive and for him it caused an adrenal insufficiency. After only three treatments, the drug had to be discontinued.

Thus began the downward spiral. It would take hours to write about what happened from August 8 until October 29 and maybe someday I will. Suffice to say, beginning on or around September 6, Ned was in the ER four times in less than six weeks. Three out of the four, he was admitted for hospital stays.

The final admittance was on October 15. For several days, he was unable to keep anything on his stomach, including medicine. His pain and nausea were unbearable. He was pitiful.

By Wednesday, we had already consulted with Dr. Sawyer, the Palliative Care Doctor. She showed great empathy and concern for us, as we talked over events from the past two months. At the end of the conversation, she said she wanted to talk with Ned, alone and also confer with Dr. Anthony.

On Wednesday evening, one of the few times, I wasn’t physically in the room when a doctor was present, Dr Anthony came to talk to Ned. I was privy to hearing the conversation via phone.

On that evening, Ned made it clear that he no longer desired treatment. Dr Anthony told him that he would respect and honor his decision.

In typical Ned fashion he said, “Well, if it’s my time to go. It’s my time to go.”

As Dr Anthony left the room, tears began to flow. I could audibly hear Ned. Then my sister, Kristi, walks out into the hallway, through broken sobs herself and says, “It’s so pitiful watching mom and Ned cry.”

I think Ned knew for awhile that his healing wasn’t going to be here and that he was going to receive the ultimate healing. His body had just worn out. He was tired. He was ready to go home.

I believe, with all of my heart, that Dr Anthony was greatly used by God to bring healing to Ned’s body for almost 19 months. I also believe that Dr Anthony was greatly used by God when he told Ned that he would support any decision he made. He released Ned to the Ultimate Healer. Now, Ned is whole again!

You see, we pray for miracles. They don’t always come packaged the way we want them. But if you believe in God, you are a miracle because He has set your soul free.

I believe in miracles. I believe we see them everyday. I believe sometimes our jaded sense of what a miracle actually is limits us from seeing the whole miracle.

The Highest of Highs and the Lowest of Lows

Talk about a flurry of emotions yesterday. This one picture brought back everything from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

The day was Friday October 9, 2015. Early that morning I received a phone call from my friend Ashley. She was delivering the news we all knew but didn’t want to hear. There was nothing more the doctors could do for our friend Gary. His time on earth was drawing to a close.

I couldn’t even get mascara on because every time I started tears would flow. It was difficult to get ready that morning. I had to pick myself up because I had a mission. I had to go find shoes for Amy.

I collected my thoughts and got myself together. Combed every shoe store and department in Spartanburg, until I finally found a pair of shoes Amy agreed to! The funny part is that after 2 1/2 hours of shopping, the shoes didn’t work and we ended up returning them.

Anyway, I left myself time to run by the hospital to see Gary. It was a sad day for all of us! We had all hoped beyond all hope that he would recover.

That evening, Amy was crowned Homecoming Queen. I remember thinking, “Wow, God! Only you could take the blow off my otherwise hard day.”

Now, two years later that picture represents so much more. Truthfully, it was about the time that Ned started to cough. Chances are the lung cancer was already there. We just didn’t know it.

Amy was so eager to get out of her dress that Mom and Ned missed the photo-op with the dress and crown. Graciously, she put the crown back on but wasn’t about to change her clothes. The best part and I didn’t even catch it until yesterday was that she had her “Nitro” shirt on. This shirt was their HHS FCA shirts. Oddly enough, Nitro is the name Terry gave Ned years ago.

The urban dictionary defines Nitro the following way:

Ask: Describes a person, place or thing as being unequivocally, quintessentially spectacular and dumbfounding.

Without a doubt he has lived up to his name. He is very memorable. If you’ve ever met him; you’ll never forget him and he is definitely one of those folks who can leave you leave you astonished and amazed. You never quite know what he will say or what he will do!

I am just reminded by this picture how much can happen in the course of two years. It reminds me to not take things or people for granted. It reminds me that relationships are much more important that things. It also reminds me that even on the darkest of days, there is always light, hope and joy!

 

The Day Everything Changed

This is my friend Gary. We go back a long way. Met at Tryon High School when we were 14 and Freshmen, ready to set the world on fire

Gary and I always had a unique friendship. We had a lot of common ground. In particularly, we both loved taking active roles in clubs and community. We both loved debate. Gary had a big personality. Magnetic. Charismatic.  The person everyone enjoyed being around.  If you were lucky enough to know Gary, you’re lucky enough.

After high school graduation, Gary and I kept loosely in touch until he moved to Simpsonville, SC in the early 2000’s. I can’t remember how we reconnected but he would, on occasion, meet me for lunch, with my kids, when I would take them to their Pediatric Dentist in Greenville.

Then he moved to the Raleigh area. Again, we kept in touch loosely but then tragedy happened. Both of Gary’s parents were killed in a car accident. After their deaths, Gary made the choice to come back home and help his sister run the family business. He sold his home. Packed his belongings and came back to Columbus, NC.

This is where our longtime friendship grew again. Terry and I would occasionally have Gary up to eat with us. Then I got a crazy hair-brained idea that we should start a dinner club with other local friends. We did. About once every 8-10 weeks, we would meet at local restaurants or each other’s homes.

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Then two years ago in late August I received a call from Monica, Gary’s wife. Gary had been admitted to the hospital earlier in the week and things didn’t look good for my friend. Without hesitation, I immediately went to Spartanburg Regional to see what was going on. Upon arrival, it was evident that my friend was in great distress. In fact, doctors weren’t certain he would live through the night. He did. Thus began an almost 7 weeks roller coaster of ups and downs.
During Gary’s hospitalization several friends volunteered to sit with him on a regular basis. This gave Monica a reprieve and also allowed her some time to work or get other necessities taken care of. Gary was not always joyful when I would show up. Mostly because there were times when my Terry mentality kicked into high gear and I didn’t shy away from confronting him on some pertinent issues.
One of the hardest conversations we was over the death of his parents. This was a real turning point for him. I asked him if he was angry with God and I asked him if he had ever grieved the loss! His answer to both did not shock me. “Yes, I am angry with God. No, I never had time to grieve.”
I knew and understood what that felt like. I was even able to tell him my story and how God had finally set me free from the bondage of anger that raged within me.
After that conversation, several days passed before I saw him again.
The next time I walked into his room, everything changed. His attitude. His countenance. His outlook. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what I was seeing. But having an inquiring mind, means you ask the question. “Gary, you did it, didn’t you? You finally forgave God. You finally gave your heart to Jesus.”
A sweet smile spread across his face and a simple, “Yes!”, flowed from his mouth. In that moment, I knew for sure that no matter the outcome of Gary’s situation, everything was going to ok.
Gary’s life on earth ended a few weeks later and on that day Gary’s life in heaven began. The best part is I will see my friend again.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeith in him should  not perish, but have everlasting life”  John 3:16

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Miracles happen

The picture above is the reason I know that prayer works.  It is effective.  It is powerful.  Miracles happen when people pray.

Look closely at the two men in the above picture.  One is Ned, my dad, who has lung cancer.  The other is my Uncle Howard who has colon cancer.  Both of these men are still, by God’s grace and through the effective prayers of His people, alive today.

If you will remember my earlier post, “The best $6.00 money could buy” was about my Uncle Howard.  Even when I wrote that post, it was uncertain what his future held.  I knew he had a desire to see his youngest grandson graduate from high school because during my visit with him, he told me so.  He just didn’t think he would live to see it happen.  Quite frankly, I don’t think anyone did.

Guess what?  He did get to see his grandson graduate.  Today.  He was there.  God gave him the desire of his heart and I’m so very thankful.  This is nothing short of a miracle.

And then there’s Ned.  His original diagnosis with lung cancer was 9-15 months with chemo treatments.  Guess what?  It’s been 15 months since chemo began.  Wait.  There’s more than that to the story.  Chemo began in March 2016.  We asked people to pray specifically that the chemo would deplete the fluid in his right lung.  It did.  In fact, after only 6 months of treatment, his lung was completely clear.  He was given a break from chemo and for the past 7 months. Every 8 weeks has been having CT scans to monitor his lungs and the possible return of cancer.

Sadly, the most recent CT scan showed cancer in the lymph node in the mediastinum.  This week he will begin a second line treatment that will consist of Keytruda, immunotherapy instead of chemotherapy.  The hope and prayer are the immunotherapy will thwart the growth and/or spread of the cancer as effectively as the chemotherapy with fewer side effects.

It is not by accident that these two men are still alive today.  It is because folks have been praying.  It is because God is a God of miracles and He is a God of love.  Also, He is a God who ordains our time and regardless of what statistics may say, God has the final say.

Every day is a miracle.  It is a gift.  Live in the miracle God gives you today and don’t get so caught up with tomorrow.  It may never come.