Exhausted, Tired…..a call to pray.

I don’t mind telling you that the past few weeks have been hard. Truthfully, they’ve been very testing and trying and have virtually stripped me of energy and I feel like I’m walking around on the brink of tears and dazed. I’m exhausted and spent, emotionally and physically. My energizer batteries have died. Finished. Caput.

We moved in our new home on February 4. I knew the week following was going to be challenging. I’d already told Terry that it was going to be “hell week”. Mentally and physically I had. prepared, or so I thought, but I wasn’t prepared for the events Monday would bring.

I was in Hendersonville taking care of an obligation when I received a phone call from Mom telling me that Popaw was being taken to the ER. He had taken bad fall because he had some major GI issues which caused him some lightheadedness. He banged his head and fell on his right arm. Knowing full well, it would take forever in the ER, I didn’t rush but but finished up my obligation first.

I got the hospital around 3:00. Popaw was pasty white. He looked terrible. Hadn’t been able to keep any food on his stomach. They ran every test imaginable. It wasn’t the flu. It wasn’t a heart attack. He had not injured his head or neck or arm when he fell. Nothing. Nada. After filling him with two bags of IV fluids, they called it GI infection and send him back to the bridge.

Mom was feeling rotten that day as well and I sent her home to take care of herself. By the time Popaw was finally released, it was about 7:45 pm. He was weak and I knew I’d need help to get him back to his room. Got him settled and finally made my way back home. I had been gone almost 14 hours.

Much of that week was the same, I wasn’t gone quite as long each day but plenty long enough. Popaw wasn’t any better. He had an appointment scheduled Friday with his doctor. When Mom called to remind him I was picking him up, he said, “Oh, I thought she was taking me to the hospital.” He was still feeling rotten and had eaten nothing since Sunday.

Mom and I decided it would be best to get him back to the ER. We ended up taking him to Park Ridge. It took basically the whole day, but they admitted him. His blood pressure and heart rate concerned the doctors there. His blood pressure extremely high and heart rate extremely low, not to mention he still wasn’t able to eat. He kept saying, ” My belly feels full. I just don’t want anything,”

He remained in the hospital for the week following. A lot of touch and go moments and several times we thought for certain his time was drawing to a close. But then something happened and he began to eat again. After 12 days of virtually no food, he ate and ate. During that time, it was decided he would need to go to rehab before going back to The Bridge, due to his weakness.

He was moved to Hendersonville Health and Rehab on Thursday. Then a call from Mom Friday morning saying they were taking him back to the ER. Fortunately the stay was only brief and he was sent back to HHR. The ultimate goal there was to get him strong enough to get back to The Bridge.

Last Sunday he was well enough to return. A huge answer to prayer and a willingness on his part to participate in physical therapy to get stronger. Terry calls him a “strong man”. He definitely is and God still has a purpose and plan for him. That’s for sure.

Due to his poor condition and other commitments I had in town, for the first three weeks since our move, I spent a total of three days in our new home. Most days required me to be gone for at least eight hours and sometimes more. It’s no wonder when friends asked how I liked my new house, I would say, “when I’m there I’ll let you know. What I can tell you is that everyday when I awaken, I am thankful and feel blessed to be there.”

Even the weekends felt jam packed. I just never took time to breathe and process we had made a major move. We left everything we knew to come to a different place, albeit not far away, just new and different.

The past two Thursdays have been particularly challenging. Two weeks ago, I finally had a full day to spend at home; however I have Bible Study on Thursday evening. This means a drive to Hendersonville.(Keep in mind, I could still live in Hendersonville and have to drive as far as I am driving now) I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home. However, I had spent time praying, making notes and preparing. I needed to go. I did go. God painted this breathtaking sky to remind me of his greatness and goodness.

This past Thursday, I had obligations before Bible Study and didn’t finish until 5:30. I only had an hour to get ready for bible study. I even called Terry and said, “I’m on the verge of tears. I’m exhausted and don’t want to go!” His response, “Just call and let them know you won’t be there. They’ll understand.” I knew deep down that wasn’t the answer. I needed to go. I dearly love these women and I needed them.

I went and I can’t tell you how blessed I was to be there. I didn’t go in with a mask on. I didn’t pretend all was ok. I just told the truth. I was vulnerable. Real. It was hard for me. You know what happened? I felt loved. I felt cared for and I felt understood. It alleviated some of the angst and frustration I was feeling. By the time I left, I felt refreshed.

When we made our decision to move, we weighed all the pros and cons. I knew going in that upfront it was going to be more difficult. I was not living in an unreal dream world where everything would be hunky dory. I knew there would be hard times. I just didn’t know how overwhelming they would be when life threw a curveball with Popaw’s illness. I wasn’t prepared for how Popaw’s illness would resurface so many emotions from Ned’s illness. I simply wasn’t ready for the overrun of emotions.

I’m not telling you this for pity or even sympathy. I don’t need those things. What I need is a body of friends remembering me in prayer for the next few weeks. Things seem to have settled and for that I am truly grateful and thankful.

I am also telling you this because through all of the trials and storms, I have seen the faithfulness of God. He is my hiding place (Psalm 32:7) and shelter from the storm. More than that, He is my strength daily. There have been days when I simply had nothing within me to do anything and He has been my strength and portion just for the day. He always gives me what I need. There may to be anything leftover at the end of the day; however, there’s always more for tomorrow because His mercies are new each day. (Lamentations 3:22-24).

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.

God has the Final say

In my post, “Miracles Happen”, I mentioned the fact that God has the final say. It’s true of life and death.  Just three days after writing that post our family would experience this reality firsthand.

On Sunday my Mom convinced Popaw to go with her and Ned to Hickory on Monday to visit his two sisters.  She reasoned with him by telling him that out of the three siblings he was much healthier and steady on his feet than his two younger sisters. He gave in and agreed to go.

Monday morning they picked him up from The Bridge.  He was complaining with heartburn, which is not unusual for him. It’s actually, as far back as I can remember, always a normal occurrence.  As the day drug on, so did his heartburn. Mom gave him some Tums. Then after eating a light lunch Judy, his niece gave him Pepcid because he said it had worsened.

By the time Mom returned from taking Aunt Bobbie back to her room. Popaw was pale, clammy and could not walk. Fairly certain he was having a heart attack, she got the address of the assisted living facility and called 911.

Promptly, EMS arrived and began working with him. Before putting him in the ambulance his pulse reading was 30.

Once they got him the hospital they had to    use the AED to shock his heart. According to the nurse who talked to Mom after, Popaw was not happy they used them.

Later when Mom talked with the doctor. He told her that a Popaw had suffered a “big” heart attack. They were able to use angioplasty; but stints would not stay in because his arteries are so hard.

He was kept in ICU overnight and moved to a regular room the next day. Released on Thursday and brought back here to Life Care.

The doctor was petty clear that Popaw’s fix is only temporary.  At some point his arteries will close back up and blood will not pass through, which will inevitably lead to death. The next time they won’t use paddles. He has a DNR. He actually had his DNR updated a week prior to his heart attack, only the hospital staff in Hickory had no idea.

You see, the thing about my Popaw is that he’s ready to go. He’s been ready to go for a very long time.

In fact, just three days prior to his heart attack, Sammy and I were visiting. (Picture above)  He and I were talking about the fact that MaMaw had been gone for 7 years.  He said, “Honey, I miss her more and more every day.  In fact my heart longs more and more to see her and  meet Jesus”.

Now, I’m not living under any false pretense that when my Popaw dies it’s going to be easy. It won’t. He’s been my constant, as constant as the stars in the sky or the sun that brightens the day or the moon that lights up the night sky.  My whole entire life he has been a source of great kindness, gentleness, humbleness, patience, meekness…. and a constant source of joy. There is no one on earth that will ever fill the shoes he leaves behind. Not one. But I am thankful. Thankful for the time I’ve had and oh, so thankful for the time still left here.

We are not promised tomorrow. God saw fit to give us a little more time. Maybe it’s to prepare our hearts. Maybe Popaw still has a life to touch. Maybe Jesus just hasn’t finished his place because He’s pretty clear that when our place is prepared, He will come for us. Whatever the reason, God will have the final say.

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  Psalm 139;16NLT

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.