Monday, August 30, 2010

finally i feel like myself

so it looks like if i get chemo on thursday morning that by monday morning i am pretty much back to myself again. minus that i have cancer and i need to lay low. and except for my mouth (it hurts real bad) and feeling tired. not so much fatigue, mostly just not wanting to get ready. but i hated getting ready pre-cancer so who knows.

justin has started cooking for me now. he made tomato bisque, guacamole, chicken salad, and these fabulous breakfast sandwiches. he said he never cooked before because he did not have a kitchen he was excited about and now he does! i love it. i love that i feel like i am getting to know him all over again. in the best way possible. with all these new surprises. little and big. but regardless they are all good ones.

last night when he came to bed he kissed my shoulder and said, "you are not alone. you are not alone in this..." i think he thought i was sleeping. but i wasn't. i am thankful i am not alone. i do not feel alone though. something i am real thankful for because it would be easy to live in despair. many people choose despair. but i choose life. and life to the full. even now. when i am tired and my mouth hurts and i would refer not to have cancer i will live in the light. now of course i get sad and ask jesus to take the pain away, but for now, today i am okay. i need these days. i will cling to them on my hardest days.

ava is thinking about crawling. and trying to pull herself up on things. so fun. her own little personality is coming through and wow there is nothing i would rather see. her sweet innocence. i need that sometimes. without a care in the world she moves through her day. she brings us real joy. and for that i am blessed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

its sunday

the past couple days have been a fog. i slept a lot with random bursts of energy that did not last more than fifteen minutes. justin has been perfect. without him i would not have made it. ava is so fun. babbling all day we wait for words to come. words we can understand that is. despite being exhausted and nauseous it has not been that bad, until yesterday afternoon. i have this pain in my mouth that i would not wish upon my worst enemy. its like a thousand little pin pricks all over your mouth and tongue. its horrible. i just got some medicine that numbs it. thank goodness. during our chemo education appt we were given some information on possible effects of chemo. so when my mouth started to hurt i read the section on mouth sores. it was comforting when it said, "the pain will subside after chemo." well thank you. just six months to go until the pain subsides.

its hard thinking that today, right now is the best i am going to feel for months. my nurse said during chemo that it will only get harder. the more chemo is in my body the harder it will be to feel "normal." that makes me a little sad and annoyed and frustrated. its getting harder now because the pain is physical. not just emotional anymore, but physically i feel different and that is hard to get used to. i just cant do what i am used to doing because i am so exhausted. this is only the beginning. its going to be a long road. we are going to have to ask for help even we would rather do it on our own. justin is going to need a break from always caring for us and i think reality is settling in. and its going to take some getting used to.

Friday, August 27, 2010

post chemo

in general everything went well yesterday. i felt pretty relaxed, not too nervous. we just picked out a leather chair and sat down. the office we were at we like much better. there were windows so the room seemed brighter and not so sad. i had a little reaction to one of medications so they slowed down my dosage and gave me some anti-anxiety medication and i slept for a while. justin sat with me the entire time and was great. we love our chemo nurse. she is real sweet and southern. we like that. it took from about 1030-330pm. so a full day. when we got home i went to bed and slept pretty much until morning. a friend had brought us tropical smoothie and that was perfect. i love smoothies since i have been feeling so nauseous. so far today the only side effect is tired and nausea. no throwing up yet. so all in all went okay for the first time treatment. thank the Lord!

today our new couches arrive. we have not really ever bought anything new, but we got some money from family and decided our new home needed a new couch and i am so excited. its something small but its lifting my spirits today. and it will certainly help complete the beautiful upstairs family room.

thanks to all of ava's babysitters and unpackers this week. we appreciate the help so much! what a community of people we have around us. total gift. we are beyond thankful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

day one of treatment 8.26.10

i slept good. not too nervous really. just want to get one of these down so i know what to expect. we gave ava her bottle in bed with us and took a little video of it. we will do that every morning of chemo. i am interested to see how i look as time passes (not in a vain way) and how my spirits are as this goes on. cant believe its real. they really make this whole chemotherapy experience as painless as possible...they have wireless interenet, i can listen to my ipod, read books, magazines, people bring you food, or justin can go buy me food and bring it back, he can be with me the whole time. sounds like an okay day to me. but lets see how i feel afterward. it gets cold in the room the nurse told me so thanks to a few sweet friends i have a brand new blanket to take with me today that came in the mail yesterday. perfect. it will last anywhere from 6-7 hours today. thanks for praying. pray for justin a lot to please...i can not even imagine, honestly i cant, what it would like to be the spouse. my sweet husband. oh, how i hate that this is causing you pain.

alright lets do it!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

one day closer

tomorrow we start chemotherapy. 10am. its been a crazy week so far. we moved. love our new place. its unbelievable. truly. it feels like home. like no where else i have ever lived. we watch boats sail down the river from our bed.

yesterday was a big appointment. we found out a few things. good news: my bone marrow is clear. bad news: the spots in my hip and rib are "atypical" and therefore put me at stage 4 lympthoma. because there is bone involvement it is more rare than typical hodgkins lymphoma. but my dr said after consulting with other doctors around the country that the cure rate is still above ninety percent and we are moving forward with ABVD chemotherapy for six months. every other wednesday. and we will assess if radiation is necessary as we go. this was the first appt where i felt sad. i was holding back my tears the entire time, just thinking wait until we get to the car, wait until we get to the car...i was doing ok for the most part until my chemo nurse brought us into the room where they administer the chemotherapy. i was incredibly overwhelmed. rows upon rows of over sized leather chairs with bald people sitting in them getting their chemo. i immediately turned around and said i cant do this and walked out. not like i cant do this (cancer i mean) but like i can not even sort of handle this room right now. it was depressing and real and hard and scary. without a doubt i have such a heart for people who have cancer and have had cancer. you are tough. keep fighting. its all you can do. to wake up and decide that i will fight this, even though i am tired and don't really want to...i will keep fighting. there is nothing fun about this. and this is real. all of it. the appointments, the medications, the doctors, the driving, the leaving ava, the conversations, the fights, the pain, the heartache, the joy, the...this is our life...really this is our life? and the answer is yes and i would not have it any other way.

as justin and i settle into our new normal...its hard. we argue and fight. about stupid stuff and important stuff. we are just trying to process and figure this out. but you cant figure cancer out. it is what it is. so we choose to keep going. to maintain some form of normalcy in the midst of it all. and we cling to what is real. our God is good. even when the pain is too much for us, he is good. and we will win. and tomorrow we are one step closer to winning.

to my dear hope street girls. my heart aches that instead of celebrating with you all tomorrow and this weekend i will be getting my first round of chemo. i love you all.

Monday, August 23, 2010

a new beginning

we move today. actually as i type this the guys are moving our things into the river house. i just smiled real big thinking about it. cant wait.

i cried today reading an email from someone i do not even know. its weird huh. but she wrote this, “as you know your life as you knew it is over and you will come to grips with your new normal. my new normal is better than i’d hoped for. jesus has been so good to me, when i least of all deserved it.” i cried because i hate the thought that the life i once knew is over. but the joy...oh, the immense joy is that the life i knew (which i loved by the way) i love it even more now. funny how cancer does that. but its true. i would never wish cancer upon anyone, but i would wish for everyone the chance to see life as i do now. not the cliche the grass is greener stuff…but the heart stuff. the things that really matter. the new way i look at justin. i never knew i could love him this much. i was too blind. the new way he looks at me. would not trade it for a million dollars. seriously i wouldn’t and i would like a million dollars. i want nothing more than for all my dear young life girls to settle for nothing less than a man that looks at them the way my husband looks at me. and cancer did this you see. me having cancer brought us to this place and the more it settles in my soul the more thankful i become. i need days like these. i need days where i am thankful for cancer, because most days i hate it. its easy to focus on the pain and sit in that for a while. but i trust that there is more going on here. way more than i can see right now. not sure what but i know that the God I serve is a big God and his plan is the best. its what we are holding onto and its working because i do feel a real peace in my heart about our new normal.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

this rainy morning

i got up early today because my sister and drake were leaving for the airport at 8am. ava sometimes starts making noises in her crib around 7 or 730am, but we usually do not get her until 8am or so. 7am is too early for us. but today i got up early so i could be with my sister for a bit. i gave ava her bottle in her chair and its the only time of day while she will lay in your arms and is relaxed. and i love it. after her bottle i went to our blog. justin mentioned when he came to bed last night that he had posted something and i was eager to read it. when i got to the you tube video i showed it to ava while she was playing in her exersaucer and she nearly jumped out in excitement. she started "talking" and we have watched it at least ten times in a row. she loves her self i think. but i cried. i love anything that captures our family in its most tender intimate moments. ava in bed drinking her bottle is one of those moments that i wish i could i could bottle up and save for forever. but i can’t. so our new little video camera will have to do the trick as we document this journey. i do want justin to take a picture at every appointment or anything i think is worth documenting for later. as hard as it has been recently i want to store it all up so we never forget. not even a second of it. its too important i think. this new season of ours. justin makes great videos and i can already envision him putting all the pictures and videos we take into a movie. and maybe we will be the only ones to watch it, but i don't care it will be ours.

thanks justin for loving me. i know the pain is hard for me to endure and maybe harder for you to watch. but we got this. i can already see us on the other side. and ava is doing her concentration face as i write this. my heart hurts with my love for her. i think she is going to be smart. every parents thinks that. but they should.

big week ahead for the ryders. we move tomorrow. tomorrow night we will be sleeping in our new place. cant believe it. i love it. on tuesday i get my port checked and then we see our oncologist for all my test results. and so it begins...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

a short letter for my wife (from Justin)


You can't even understand how bad I golfed today. I lost 12 balls on 12 holes and got laughed at by a woman that was receiving a lesson as I "tried" to play through. I was alone and honestly couldn't concentrate cause I kept looking over my shoulder and wondering why this attempt to "get out of the house" went so badly. I just hate seeing you in pain. I reminded myself of Cliff at our wedding when he thought he was left handed then convinced my dad on Hole 8 that he needed to re-rent right-handed clubs to finish the round. I hope that made you laugh.

Here's something else that you can laugh at -- Ava holding her bottle up with her foot.

You have been in pain lately, and LIBBY, it kills me. Things are settling down, and babe, it doesn't mean that I or everyone else is ANY LESS there for you. We have only just begun to care for you, love you, and encourage you. I will start fresh tomorrow! You are doing a great job enduring and beginning to reach out. I see echos of Philippians 1 in your messages, "I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel...". Keep being yourself. I don't even know how to say it, I just hate when you are in pain. Its remarkable you ask me to take a picture at every test, so we can look back and remember when this is over. Well, this is my favorite, a breathing chamber.

Somehow you are smiling behind there. I hated it, but that nurse was really nice. Well, you are teaching me what it means to be tough, to endure, to hope, to be sad for the right reasons. I have certainly been happy for the wrong ones before this. Be positive! You are more than a conqueror in Christ, and you are by no means defeated by this. It still doesn't define you, it never has, and it never will. As the scars pile and procedures pile up, you get more beautiful by the day. You are still surprising me and making me laugh around every corner. Still surprising me. How you have handled this whole thing has been such an incredible gift. And babe, I'm doing my best, it will be a failure sometimes. I hate seeing you in pain. If there is anything you need, keep asking.

moving on Monday,

For our family and friends...just press the words below to see the video
Here's a little update of sweet Ava from today, we love to get a little video when she wakes up and is so peaceful.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

late thursday night

tonight we watched another movie. i am taking a break from movies for a bit. it was about death and life, but mostly death and it made me sad. its not that i think i am going to die or anything, but clearly the thought goes through your mind. so i would rather not watch movies about death anymore.

today i had to get some tests done on my breathing. they were checking my lung capacity. i asked the technician and she said i passed. so that is good news. justin helped by making me laugh and we had great conversation with the women administering my test. she was great. she was different. as soon as she called my name and we started walking to the room she asked how we were doing. not like how are you today, but like how are you both really doing. i think out of all the dozens of different nurses and doctors we have seen over the last three weeks she was the second one to ask us that question. the first was our oncologist. that is why we picked him. not the only reason, but a big one. we love compassionate people. jesus was the most compassionate person i have ever heard of and i have desired that more for myself as well. so now i notice it. the best type of doctor or nurse, or whoever is taking care of you needs to be real real smart and real real compassionate. that is key. today i felt way more like a young 26 year old women who has a sweet little baby named ava and a husband who always asks if he can come along (sometimes they do tests on me and do not let justin come, but he always asks just in case) than just another person with cancer. it was nice to be seen as me.

so how are we really doing? depends on when you ask. right now a little sad. but for most of today happy. last night when i finished blogging and turned out my light and tried to get comfy in bed with my down comforter and four pillows i had the thought, "wow, i really love my life." so please know that for tonight we are doing just fine over here.

i could have taken my bandage off my port yesterday, but i was too scared. i was not ready to see it. its hard to watch your body change and my scars will never let me forget. today while attempting to nap i started peeling. it took me several minutes to take it off because i am wimp when it comes to my skin and band aids and this was not the kind where ripping it off real fast was an option. so peeled it very slowly and finally it came off. its a little bruised, very very tender, and ugly. its hard to see the scars. but they are a part of me now. just like my cancer will always be a part of who i am. after i beat this and go into remission, i know that cancer will remain in my story. i know that it has changed everything. forever.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

muga scan

today i had a muga scan. it tests my heart regularity. they just had to draw some blood and mix it with some radioactive stuff and then take pictures of my heart. it was easy. i just laid there while a camera took three pictures of my heart and i could not move. but overall harmless. appointments are just annoying. they take up so much time, but i love that justin has not missed one appointment so far. and maybe he will never miss even one. we stopped for a drink at sonic afterward. there happy hour is a deal. i used to get a big diet coke, but not anymore. i am trying to drink way more water.

when we were driving home from the hospital justin missed a call from our friend who is the area director for yl in williamsburg. we listened to his voice mail together and he had just found out today about me having cancer and he was like, "i could just drive down and come be with you guys, not sure if that's helpful for you, but i could take ava for a walk or something..." i just loved feeling loved. i know everyone feels helpless. because there is nothing anyone can really do. but the hundreds of offers we get from people to help in anyway shape or form does not go unnoticed by us. ever. we feel the body of christ like we have never experienced before. so thank you.

the last two nights we have watched movies. just me and my sisters and my mom and of course justin. chick fila and "its complcated" last night and tonight was sushi and "the last song." its been nice to laugh with my family. my husband is so funny to me. i like these nights. but we did not know that the dad in the stupid film "the last song" was going to have cancer and die at the end. but i was not real sad (because the movie was dumb) not sure how everyone else felt about it.

my dad left on tuesday to go back to wa and i was sad. sad because monday night was a norrible night of throwing up and severe pain. i hated that monday had to be his last night. it gets hard when you want to control how you feel and control the pain, but you can't. i am learning to let go. like never before. and its hard. i want to feel good. i want the pain to be gone. and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. i just want to be able to play with ava. that is the hardest part right now. i had a quick thought today, oh, i wonder if she notices that everyone else is taking care of her before i am. i sure hope she knows its not by choice. tonight though when i rocked her to sleep i sang, "you are so beautiful" over and over and the entire time she touched my lips with her left hand as i sang. i needed to end my day with her

i have not been very nice to justin lately. i am not sure why. i am difficult sometimes. i know i am. i expect a lot out of him. as i should. but sometimes its crazy ridiculous how i act. but i am aware of it and am making a change. cancer brings out of my soul some good and some bad. like i have been swearing more. but i will stop. there is this small sense of "i have cancer so..." but that is not who i am. and that is not who i want to be. but i will not hide from what is true. and what is true is that i have no idea what it's like to have a spouse with cancer, or a daughter with cancer, or a sister with cancer...but i am in the midst of trying to figure out what it means that i have cancer. slowly the numbness is dissipating. maybe that is why this week has hurt so much. i am not sure. but i am trying.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

the pain is real

i am sitting in bed and it hurts. my port hurts, my backs hurts from the biopsy and my heart hurts. its just a lot for me today. we are moving. not sure if i mentioned that but we are moving to the river house. the place of our dreams. its right on the water and we love the water. it does something to our souls, especially justin's. and i love that ava's first real memories will be of the river house. and the thought of that is enough to get me through today. my sisters and mom are here and they are packing up and watching ava so i can rest. i do not rest well, but i need too. i have been forced to slow down and i wish nothing more than for everyone to experience that. it has slowed me down to love justin more fully and to enjoy every little second with ava as she grows up too fast. our time, for the most part is spent exactly how we want it to be spent and that is such a precious gift. see you have to find joy wherever you can when you have cancer. but really i smiled when i typed that because i have not felt depressed once. not even for a second. i mean why? it wont change anything. i know i may get sad, angry, and annoyed and everyone keeps telling me that i can scream and cry and throw things...but i do not want to yet. i am sure i will though and i will not hesitate to express whatever emotions i have. i think i am pretty good at not keeping things inside. but mostly i am not real worried and angry because that will not change anything for me or for justin or for baby ava. this is not our life, its not our own to keep, and i am not in control. Jesus is and i trust him more than i trust myself. i am too broken and in pain. the peace i am experiencing can only come from Him and i am forever thankful.

Monday, August 16, 2010

3 weeks today

sorry for not posting much recently. the outer banks was restful and relaxing. it was nice to get away. we swam in the pool, played putt-putt, ate good food, played with the babies, and enjoyed way too much candy from my sweet aunt janie (she knows us girls well). but now we are home. back in our house and our own bed. oh, how i missed my bed.

today at 7:30am justin and arrived at the hospital for my bone marrow biopsy and my metaport (that way they can administer my chemo easier). all in all it went well. sweet nurses and a great doctor who assured me i could have as many drugs as i wanted to and i would not feel any pain. she was correct. although i was awake for both procedures it was not painful and they both went fine. we will not know the results of my bone marrow biopsy until our appt on aug 24 with our oncologist. the metaport kills. i have been in pain all day. i am nauseous and tired, but can not seem to sleep. maybe i will tonight.

its been exactly three weeks since we found out about my cancer and today is the first day that i have experienced real pain. not like crazy pain, more like really uncomfortable, like someone please take this foreign object out of my body (not the cancer, the stupid metaport). they told me it will get better. but i can not pick up ava for two weeks. TWO WEEKS...are you kidding me. that sounds awful and sad and again reminds me this is real and actually happening. but we have help from my sweet family until sunday. i like that they are here to take care of us and watch ava during all of our appointments. family feels like home.

the nurse today said, "wow i bet its been a nightmare for you guys since you found out three weeks ago..." i did not respond, but i immediately thought, nope not a nightmare. never occurred to me to think of it like that. not because i am strong or anything, because this sucks. cancer is not very fun at all and i hate it. but i do not hate it because i think its unfair or why me...but mostly because i would prefer not to have cancer. but i trust jesus more than i ever have in my life and i can already see how he is using this in such huge ways and i love it. he is real and he is good. all the time.

thank for all the emails and mail we got this past week and the fun packages. it bring me lots of joy and we appreciate it so much. as i am writing i can hear my darling ava in the living room laughing at her daddy and i can not hold back my tears. she laughs the most with him. i also laugh the most with him. so i guess her and i really are a lot alike. the Lord knew we would need ava during this season of life. she keeps me from staying in bed all day and for that i am very thankful.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

some sad news from the outer banks

the past few days have been good. i have loved watching sweet ava play with her cousin drake. they love each other. ava does not really have any friends yet, so its so fun to see them interact. she has been swimming in the pool nakes and its precious. its nice to be away. and its nice to be with family. we did get a call from our p.a and the results of my pet scan came in...they found two more cancerous spots. so not only is the cancer in my neck & chest, but it was also found in my right tenth rib and my left hip. i have been having pain in both those places so its nice to have an explanation, but hard because it most likely means radiation along with chemotherapy. and hard because it means i am most likely stage 3 (or possibly 4...but we do not need to go there yet). that will be confirmed on the 24th when i see my doctor. so until then i will not jump to any conclusions until i hear it from my doctor. my p.a. will be calling us next week once she goes over this with my dr (who is on vacation) and we may need to see a radiation oncologist at some point next week. so its up in the air. our kind p.a did say based on what she sees its still curable. so i believe that. i have to. but my heart hurt a lot when we got off the phone. and again its real. this is our new reality.

although the news of tuesday was "good" the news from today is a bit disheartening. so please do not stop praying for our little family and asking God for a miracle. a big one. we trust he can do it.

my dear husband continues to serve me and love me in a way i have never seen. i did not know it existed, this type of love i mean. but it does and there is no one else i would rather go down this road with than my justin. i love you. and we try to rest...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

nodular sclerosis hodgkin's lymphoma

our dr called and is nodular sclerosis hodgkin's lymphoma. sad because i do have cancer and no cancer is good. BUT...this is what my doctors thought and we have been given every reason to believe its curable. God is good. so now we gear up for some chemo...we will know more details once we talk to our doctor on aug 24th. he is letting me take the week off with no appointments! so we are heading to the outer banks and staying in our dear friends gorgeous beach house. my sister becky arrives today with her little boy, drake who is 7.5 months and my oldest sister allsion arrives we will spend sometime at the beach and in the pool until sunday. unfortunately, on the 16th i start up again with a bone marrow biopsy and a metaport insert and a few more tests on the 18th and 19th. but for today i am free. free to head to the beach.

Monday, August 9, 2010

my darling ava.

i know i am blogging twice today. i used to think people who blogged had no lives. sorry for thinking that. i no longer feel that way. i promise. but this is my journal and we want to share it with you. but i have to write.

about three hours ago i asked my mom if she would play with ava, do some laundry, and put ava to bed for me. i was tired and wanted to lay down. well instead of sleeping i laid in my bed (my most favorite place) and cried, read blogs, read emails, thought, prayed, missed my husband (he was out running errands), and cried more. i get sad the most when i am alone. at 7:30pm i decided to get up because i missed ava and wanted to play with her in bed with me. she started getting fussy, so i made her a bottle, and put her pjs on. as i was getting her ready i started crying. crying because i never want to miss one night of putting her to bed again. bedtime is such a precious time. we sat in her glider and cuddled up and she drank her sucky formula. for the past few months whenever i nursed ava she would reach up and touch my face with one her hands. she would just stroke my face back and forth and back and forth. i have missed that. well tonight when i was helping her hold her bottle, she reached up with one hand and put it around my neck and played with my hair. i love when people play with my hair and tonight my sweet ava did it and i wept. she held on so tight. just her and i. i promised her that even though you may have more babysitters in the next few months than i would maybe like, i will always put you to bed. even when i am sick and i am tired, i will put you to bed (unless your daddy really wants to). i fell even more in love with my ava tonight.

these past two weeks have sure slowed the ryder family down. we did not mean to it just happened naturally. we were sorta forced to. but its been so refreshing. i never have plans. i have never had that before. my only real obligations are going to doctors appointments, but other than that nothing. i know this time will pass. it has too. justin will go back to work. i will begin to get back into my usual routine and be ready to see more people...i am sorry it is just still very hard for me. please do not feel abandoned. you know who you are...but we are still here, we are just taking a little break while we figure this whole thing out. but this time as been a gift. as i sat and rocked ava to sleep i was not distracted by anything. i have never experienced this before and the newness in it is perfect. i feel peaceful. for tonight i feel peaceful.

and we are asked to wait one more day...

we both slept well last night. total gift. ava slept in until 9am. another gift. i called my surgeons office this morning and she said my results were not in. i was annoyed and hung up. i called the hospital and spoke to the pathologist who was so kind when i told her our situation. she said my results were IN (yay!) and she would fax them wherever i wanted them to go. thrilled! my results are in! so she faxed them to our oncologist, who is on vacation, which we knew, but his p.a would help us today. we call the office and find out his p.a is not in the office today. so we wait. we are asked to wait one more day. his p.a did call justin to say that she will call us first thing in the morning. immediately i was angry and just sad. clearly. but we were at the outlet malls so instead of getting angry i shopped with my mom. its really hard to wait...

justin called and cancelled our appointment with the jones institute this morning. its the place where we would go to harvest a few of my eggs. initially we were told their was a slight chance that after my chemo i may not ovulate again. we have since heard that the risk is very low and therefore we are not going to go in that direction. however, i never wanted to do it. to me it meant that i would not get better, or that things would not return to what they once were after this season of life had passed. clearly you can look at in an entirely different way, like harvest a few eggs... you may not need them..but you have them just in case. i saw it differently. to me it meant that my body would not go back to "normal." and that is a hard thing to imagine. we have our sweet ava. i have had the gift, oh the absolute gift of being pregnant, giving birth (which i loved by the way...yes i loved loved labor & delivery)..and being a mom to ava. all this said, there was a moment after justin got off the phone when i had the quick passing thought, i hope we made the right choice. i do hope we made the right choice.

and again we wait.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I hate waiting, especially for news. (from Justin)

Dear Libby,

Family is refreshing. You are refreshing to me, and this last two weeks, in a sense, has been wonderful ~ extra wonderful. I want you to know it has been a GIFT. I feel like a different person after these last two weeks. Thank God, we are on the same wavelength.

Ava's concentration face is exactly like yours, which I can't get over. I just picture the two of you sitting around concentrating on things with eyes slightly open, slightly crossed, nothing breaking your stare. I really laugh hard at that thought. I want you to disciple her as she grows up. You will provide guidance in Christ that only you can. I know you the two of you will be best friends. The best thing about taking her on a date the other day was that you kept asking her, "Did daddy take you on a date?" I love it that you loved it.

There is no good cancer. There is just hard cancer. Sure, there are kinds they tell us will be more treatable with protocols and plans, but no kind will be easy. There are things we want to hear, but I will take nothing half-halfheartedly. I won't accept comfort from any medical report. Anything could happen, and we will rely on Christ. Today was hard for me cause we talked about how much you will have to endure. And you are my family. It hurts so much to face. There are no easy roads out.

I can't even imagine you having to endure the tests that are coming next week, but you will. You must. You keep fighting Libby! Don't stop baby, for Ava, all for Jesus. You, we, have been called to endure. And endure we will. There are no good cancers, but whatever comes our way tomorrow, WHATEVER they say to us about the next 6 months, the next year, or the next forever, just know this: we don't have to be afraid of anything. There is nothing they can relay to us that can push us into despair. They can't give us hope, they can only give us news. Focus with me babe, 2 Cor 1, Jesus, His Plan, His Hope, the best of HOPE. Be surprised by his hope. Don't hope in tomorrow's call, you've already been called.

I hurt with you, but today I was thinking, I don't and never will feel sorry for you. Look at you... you are living a story worth living. Tonight I was thinking about the Bengals for a second when all THIS popped back inside my mind, and I realized, you are right IN THE MIDDLE of this, facing it, talking with it, living it. It lives inside you, the cancer, there are no retreats for you. And yet you are not bitter, just real, sometimes joyful, sometimes sad, sometimes feisty, sometimes sad again, but you are authentic. This is your life, as found in His Story. All this devotion to Jesus we have had "in our heads" is becoming much less mental and much more physical. Day to Day -- You are living the story... I can tell that you feel ALIVE.

I love you. I hope I can encourage you to continue to look at what God is doing tomorrow, not the Doctors (but I pray for them on this night).

Yours, J

a day away

my parents arrived in virginia late last night. i took a vicodin for my leg pain and feel asleep, but woke up when they got to our house around 12:30am. it was great to see them and to finally be together. i hope it was good for them to see that i am okay. that we are okay. we got our usual iced mochas and spent the morning talking. i love that. just sitting together and drinking coffee. its feels comforting to me. we packed up today and drove to williamsburg for a wonderful brunch and a little outlet shopping. it was nice to get away. it is way more fun to shop for ava than myself though. we checked into our hotel and rested while ava napped. we went to dinner tonight and ava was great. i kissed her more tonight than i think i have ever. i am falling more in love with her by the second. i was able to ask my parents questions tonight about how they are feeling about everything. its hard to talk about. i mean i want to talk about and i am glad we do, but sometimes i just wish we did not have to. its hard because i can see their pain. i can see it in justin too. its all over him. its real and tomorrow will be big. pray for that. please pray its what we think it is, because i am not prepared for anything else.

last night i woke up at 4am from a horrible dream and i turned over and justin was still awake. i told him my dream was real scary, but in my dream i did not have cancer. so when i woke up i remembered that i did and i got really sad. not an ordinary sad, but like a deep inside sad. hopefully we can sleep tonight.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


its been a good day. our house was being shown a few times this morning so we got ava ready and went to breakfast. we went to cracker barrel. out of all the breakfast options, i chose that. i like the biscuits they have. we went to target. i wanted a few new tanks for the outer banks trip. justin and i have never really shopped much together, but since we are now on day 13 of our date, we basically do everything together. i found this white sheer bathing suit cover up and he said, "yes, get that. i can see you wearing that when we ride bikes in the outer banks." but it was too big. he wanted to pick out a book to read where he did not really have to think, but target has nothing. we will go to barnes and noble tonight. when we got home we took a walk and when we crossed the street i said to him, "sorry that it took me getting cancer to be nice to you..." he said of course, you have always been nice. but that is not true. i have mentioned before that this will change everything. well that is an example of how we will never go back to how we once were. i see my husband differently now. i love him in a new way. it reminds me of the summer we met. the magic of it. its just a part of this whole thing for me. life will never be what it once was and that is the gift i have found in cancer.

the mail keeps coming. today i said to justin that i bet the mailman is catching on that something is wrong because of the letters and packages. and today when he came to the door because it would not all fit in our box, i told him i was sick and that are moving. he has kinda become my friend. i mean he brings me our mail everyday.

our sweet ava is seven months old today. tonight i nursed her for the last time...i think. i thought maybe ending on her birthday was appropriate. although my goal was one year, it was not meant to be. notice how i said..i think and maybe. well then it does not seem so absolute and i like that. its sad for me. i think its something only a mom can really understand.

tonight is peaceful. ava is sleeping. justin is reading donald miller on the couch and i am getting ready for my dad and mom to arrive tonight.

and with a bit of anxiousness we wait for monday to come...

Friday, August 6, 2010

no results today

we waited all day for the dr to call with the results of my biopsy, but nothing. we will have to wait until monday and that will be very hard for us. today was a bittersweet day for me. i think its sinking in more. the fact that i have cancer. its becoming more real. i have a decent size bandage on my neck from my surgery and when we were out for dinner tonight, i was a little embarrassed about it. justin told me you could barley notice it, but i know he was lying. it was still nice of him to say that though. we sat across from each other at dinner, thanks to gift card that came in the mail today, and i did not have very much to say. i was fighting back tears and i am not exactly sure why. because i know i have cancer, i feel like everyone in the restaurant knows too and is looking at me different. how silly is that? and what bothers me is that i know that cancer is not what defines me. my identity is in christ and i'm libby ryder and i am proud of that. but you know how sometimes you may know something, but not really believe it all the time. that's what's happening for me today. i know this is part of his plan, but today, for a second i wish it wasn't. i can say that right? well i just did. i know he has a plan for me and that this is a part of it and i will fight. i will get all the tests done that my doctor tells me to and i will have chemotherapy treatments to destroy the cancer in my body...but today i wish i did not have to do any of those things. but i will. because i believe that the life i have in christ is better than anything i could do apart from him. so i will do it.

two high school girls who i love dearly cut their hair off today. i think for locks of love, but not totally sure. when they sent me the picture text one girl wrote, "i did the only thing i could to help." and the other wrote, "trying to help anyway i can." wow. love it. we got a stack of cards today and more flowers. i love when the doorbell rings and i see the ups man walking back to his truck and i look outside and see a package. thanks to the gifts cards we can finally afford my iced mocha habit. but seriously thank you for loving us and for caring for our little family. it helps on days like today. tomorrow my parents come and that is good. very good.

today we rest

today we have no appointments. no doctor wants to see me and that is nice. finally a break since this all started. i have pretty much been in bed all day. returning emails, talking on the phone, people stopping by, reading blogs, and being with ava. mostly justin has been with ava, but i think that is okay for today. i am tired. i will nap soon. i wish i had more to say but i don't really. thank you for bearing this burden with us, we do not feel alone.

Learning many things (by Justin)

This is for all husbands who have experienced something like this, and struggled with, I would guess, these couple things that I am struggling with. I hope this is somewhat practical for our family and friends, so you know our hearts and what's going on. Here are a couple of things I have been thinking about for days, and I honestly struggled whether to put them out there, but I feel like it honors Libby and helps people to understand that trusting in God is not effortless, but a process. And the process, is good. Its good for us, its growing us up. Its NOT AS IF we don't want to trust God, we do, its just learning to trust him in new ways under new circumstances.

1.Making Libby comfortable myself versus setting her up to be comforted by Christ (and want more comfort from Him more than anything else).Where is the line? This is something that has been all but resolved in my heart. The TWO blend together because they are supposed to. I never have to "pull back" from loving her so she seeks Christ on her own. No, loving her really hard is an example of Christ. This has been wonderful to get clarity on, and fun to do! "Perfect Love casts out fear" of doing it wrong. AS I love her she feels the love of Christ. No holding back. No reserves, all of it will point her to Christ.

2. Wishing I had a lot more money verses relying on the Lord and hoping in Him, and asking Him, for everything. He has not failed yet in working through people and circumstances to make stuff happen. You get a sense there is a bigger thing going on behind the scenes. As soon as this happened, I wanted to take Libby to Paris (I don't even think she wants to go...) but I just thought, "Maybe in Paris we will be more comfortable, cause Paris carries that kind of reputation". Probably not, and Libby and I have talked about this many times as well, cause wherever you go, you are there, and you are still yourself, and you still have this problem. So stand firm.

3. This is a big one: being around family. I want her to be around family as much as possible in this. She loves her family, and it does her so well to be around them! However, its OK that we are called to Chesapeake and moved here, and it has been the greatest gift to me to see our family here surround us with love and care.

2. Accepting help is like accepting Grace, it's hard to do. I am so into it now, however, because I so long to accept grace, gracefully. And so many people have helped. But it's true for us, and true for everyone, that its certainly easier to just keep busy with different tasks and things, versus really going there with this thing. Really coming up close to God and saying, "I'm mad", or "I'm happy", but "I'm yours" nevertheless. There is NO QUITTING, because our life in Christ is not a hobby, doesn't feel like a hobby, and never has been. It feels like a family, it feels like there is a person INVOLVED in our lives, the person of Jesus. I have quit many hobbies, but never any people. If you quit a person, don't you have to make the decision for them, that they will quit too? Certainly we couldn't ever make that decision for Jesus. He is who He is. It feels as if there were someone in a room, and regardless of what we say, that person will still be in the room. (I have recently heard of someone quitting Christianity and didn't understand that... is that like telling Jesus to leave the room? What if he says NO?) I loved talking to my friend Rick the other day, and was so encouraged to really go there with this. Of course, that's easy for me to say, but harder for Libby to do. Pray for that for her. Wow. She is walking into deep waters here that I do not understand from experience, but we long to experience this together.

Stand firm. Gal 5:1.

"Christianity hasn't been tried and found wanting", wrote G.K. Chesterton, "It has been found difficult and left untried."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

grace (from Justin)

Some of our family in Christ planned a prayer service for my sweet wife. It was humbling, encouraging, calming, and really just wonderful to see adults and students praying, and just to see them! Alex, Ariel, JT, and Jacob (I hope I didn't leave anyone out) did such a great job and I really admired their leadership in the midst of this. WORSHIP made this about JESUS and not Libby, and that I think made her so happy. If you were there tonight.... thank you so much for your prayers! I enjoyed the worship as well. It will make the difference.

I prayed tonight for the "grace to accept grace, gracefully." Its hard to just let people help but so freeing. We want to love people well as they pray for us. We received grace tonight.

Tonight was a great night for the Lord.

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its raining here & i love it

two of our good friends just left our house with justin to go pray. they were the ones that were bringing sushi and they did and it was perfect. especially since i have not eaten since prom night. a dear friend of ours, a sophomore in college organized a prayer night for me. for me? really? i am not sure what to do with this. how i feel i mean. that people would come together to pray for my healing and for my family. as justin was walking out the door to leave i said to him, "can you believe that this is our life?" and i cant. to be honest its all too much. other people get sick, not me. we plan prayer nights for people, but not for our own family. but in the midst of it all i am very thankful for jesus and for community. he meant for us to live in community so that we would never go through valleys alone. and this is what brings us together i guess. its still very strange that its me. i am not sure i will ever get used to it. but thankful that i am surrounded by a community of people who love the Lord and love my family. we will beat this. i will not stop fighting. even when it hurts and i am very tired. i will keep going. i promise. many people have said to me, God never gives us more than we can handle. not true. i may already blogged about this actually. but anyways i cant handle this. its too much for me. so because its too hard for me and for justin to handle, we are brought to our knees. the only hope we have is in Jesus. if you read nothing else ever again on this blog please read this. Jesus is the one thing. nothing else will satisfy you. i promise. and that is what i am holding onto tonight as i sit in my living room and the rain is pouring down onto our sky lights, a sound i love. my sweet ava is sleeping and people in chesapeake are gathered in a small church to pray for me and my family. praying big prayers. our God is a God of miracles and that is where my hope is found.

PET scan

we got home a little bit ago from my pet scan. it was weird. there was no one in the waiting room except for us and they had me drink this nasty radioactive stuff. when the nurse was putting in my iv i asked why this place looked deserted. she said, oh well its just me and the dr that run this place and we schedule all patients appointments 45 minutes apart so no one has to wait. she said its hard to be here because every patient that comes here has cancer and we want to be sensitive to what they are going through and try to make this a peaceful environment for them. i thought that is nice of them. but to us it seemed a bit creepy. but they really were nice and the scan was easy. just had to lay there and not move for 20 minutes. easy enough. but it was sad for me because i am now one of their cancer patients. just hard to think about it. i am getting less strong. like today the iv really hurt my arm. i never realized how much i use me neck until i cant. its hard to hold ava. its hard to wash my hair. right now its just hard. today has been hard for me. i have been impatient with justin and i am not sure why. he is doing everything. but i guess days like these are allowed. some friends are bringing over sushi tonight. which we love. i also got two packages, three cards, and a bouquet of flowers. so thank you. i still trust jesus. but today i am a little sad. and these days will come.

Program for Ava

I miss my guys at saranac. As many of you know, Libby and I were supposed to be at saranac doing program for the month of August. We are missing meeting all of the work crew, summer staff, and being with the camp staff. They have become like family. I'm so thankful for 'mes' who stepped in last minute and is doing my characters and parts. What an opportunity for a future YL staff guy! Mostly we will miss getting the chance to make kids laugh and break down walls for the Gospel. That is what program is all about. I can remember doing program before I knew there was such a thing, and have enjoyed it. I am thankful for Cliff as well, who is working hard to fill the gap. I miss working with you man!

I am so blessed to spend so much time with Ava, she is without a doubt responding different to me, after being around so much. I can almost tell she is more comfortable with me, and trusts me more. Its a JOY to spend this much time with her, and a blessing I am thankful to God for.

I can't figure out how to post video on this thing but see this link below for the response of my "new" program audience (of one).

post op

yesterday pretty much confirmed that all this is real. no more denial and no more numbness for me. this is happening. i have cancer. unless God does something crazy, like i know he can, we are mentally preparing ourselves the best we can for the long road ahead. the dr said i will probably lose my hair, but that i could get a wig or something. right of the bat i said, oh no not for me. i am a scarf girl. cute fashionable ones please. does not matter if am bald, wearing a scarf, or a wig, people will stare. i know because i have stared at people. but now i will look at people with deep sincere compassion and empathy. i would ask you to do the same too. i may even ask my sweet sister who is gifted photographer to take some pictures of me and ava with no hair. she is bald still. its precious. she wears big huge bows those to distract from her baldness. but now i am thinking i want to embrace her sweet baldness a bit more.

i was so sick last night. my dr gave me vicodin, but it made me sick. so i took a little tylenol pm and went to bed no problem. sore. but ok. ava slept in until eight this morning. that has been my main prayer and the Lord delivered. she still seems to enjoy her sucky formula, although weaning her is very sad for me, since i was trying to nurse for a year, i knows its whats best for her and for me during this time. i asked justin to cancel my PET scan for today, but when he called they said, sorry her medication is being driven in from washington, dc this morning so we are going to need her to come in today. wow i must be special. all the way from dc huh. just kidding. i am just tired and uncomfortable, but she said the PET scan is easy and they will make sure i am as comfortable as possible. this morning as been good so far. justin fed ava her bottle in bed with us and that is such a precious time with her. she now has two teeth coming in on the bottom. oh, my sweet sweet baby. justin went to dunkin donuts to get my favorite donut. chocolate frosting with sprinkes. he is taking care of it all and that gives me such peace.

yesterday i got a big fat package from my sweet friend angie. also flowers from my cousin and his wife. so fun to come home to after surgery. also some cards, endless emails, texts, and calls...i usually cry when i read them. thank you for loving us and taking the time to join us on this journey. God is so good. the way people are loving us and caring for us right now has given me a glimpse of how God intended this world to be. that is why he is so good because he is the designer of it all and his plan is better than anything i could have made up in my head. i love that.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

i am supposed to be sleeping but...

i am supposed to be sleeping but i can not stop thinking about this so i had to write it down. justin will edit it first. for the first time today i got anxious about this blog. its only existed for 3 days and it appears that a good amount of people are reading it. which is cool. but also weird because i may not know you. but as i was thinking that tonight i felt assured that Jesus is using this. he has to or all this is a waste. my cancer that is. its a waste of time, energy, lots of money, and me missing out on time with ava. like when i got home and wanted so desperately to hold her but i couldn't really because my neck hurts so bad and i am so nauseous so i had to hand her back to justin. this will all be worth it. every second of it if jesus does something big with it. he will though. i have to trust that.

Update from Today (from Justin) Aug 4th

We had quite a day. First, thank you Alex, Becca, and Lisa for watching Ava, with help from Ariel. Without you guys, we COULD NOT have gotten through this day. It's one thing to do all this, and its another thing altogether to try and do this and worry about your child. We did not have to worry and for that we thank you.

Its funny that Libby says I do stuff. I have done nothing, but just sit in the waiting room and cry as they cut my wife's neck open to take a chunk of this thing. I cannot even type that sentence without crying. Today was so SOBERING. To go to another oncologist and hear the same news; It was hard. The prognosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma seems right to all Dr's involved. One hard memory from today: sitting at the Norfolk office of Dr. the waiting room was full of cancer patients. We were surrounded by people, some sicker, some further into treatment, some quieter, all people with cancer. We have cancer. Most nurses read our charts with looks of surprise. All of their looks seem to think, "How did this happen?" I will not join with people in those thoughts; I cannot. We hope to meet other patients and maybe council couples in our spot someday. But for now, we have to get to work.

Here's new information from today, along with some answered prayers, that we MUST ENCOURAGE you with, because you are the people who are laboring in prayer for us, and THAT MAKES THIS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT SITUATION. I can't honestly convey how much praying is changing this. We literally FEEL prayed for. If we didn't, I don't know what we would say or how we would do this. Simply put, it would not be possible. Libby looks forward to turning her computer/phone on and getting your messages. I cannot thank you enough.

  • We Love our Oncologist, who we met today. He was caring, compassionate, loving, encouraging, and fostered a team mentality with his staff and us. He comes highly recommended and explains things in an empathetic way, but a detailed way. He is nice and smart. He treated Libby great, and LISTENED. This is a true answer to prayer, that Libby would leave that office pumped about him and his care. He confided in us that he is a cancer survivor himself. ITS A NEW DEFINITION OF JESUS FOR ME. He has "walked in our shoes", and will now be leading the medical side of things. Pray for him.
  • He was incredibly thorough, and gave me information that I can start memorizing; tonight! (Be careful if you are researching this stuff, try something like, where you can find peer reviewed medical journals, etc.)
  • He ordered more tests... this made us feel great. Although it means more appointments, they are tests that we didn't know about that can affect Libby now and in the future. (She will have 6 major things done before treatments begin, and after tomorrow's PETSCAN, we will have completed two of these. We have had a host of other things done, as you know, but these were all leading to diagnosis. The 6 major things are dealing with what kind/stage of Lymphoma.)
  • He told us what to expect if his suspicions are correct: Chemotherapy, and depending on the biopsy results anywhere from 4-6 months, 8 at the most, and a host of other combinations of treatments depending on specific results of today's biopsy.
  • ANSWERED PRAYER! Libby did great during surgery today to remove a piece of it. She was completely under during the procedure. I feel that God blessed the surgeon and the situation and it all felt prayed for, but was hard to see her go through.
  • PRAISE JESUS I COULD SCREAM THIS !!!!!! This Dr. said the specific kind of Chemo treatment we are looking at doesn't lead to fertility issues. In fact, he said if it did, we could end up in a Journal. I hate journals.
  • Finally, our sense of "urgency" was finally spoken to today. Just like us, you are probably thinking the worst or trying not to. The Dr. revealed today that this has probably been going on for a year, and if it is what he suspects it doesn't grow tremendously fast. He said we will act promptly and consistently, but not emergency "quickly", if that makes any sense. We see him again on the 24th, and in the mean time, we will be getting the other tests and praying, while staying healthy and positive. Libby's body needs to be healthy and ready for this treatment. Her parents Tim and Krista, as well as her sisters are coming in this weekend, and I know this will be good for her soul and body.
Prayers: Please lift up these requests to the Lord.
  • There is a spot on Lib's rib on her right side that seems abnormal to Dr's. Please pray that this goes AWAY, because we want this thing to be contained in one area of her body, and therefore be easier to kill.
  • Pray for strength for Libby, who after having surgery today, is going for another test tomorrow afternoon. A PET SCAN.
  • Please pray quick results to the Biopsy, We were told we have a 50/50 chance of getting them Friday and therefore knowing what this is. They could come Monday morning as well. Pray the results are conclusive, and therefore treatment will be outlined, and we can start tackling this thing.
  • Pray for this River House - I want to move Libby there!

What can I say? Surprise. Reality. Shock. Love. Anger. Nervousness. Tears. Memories. Ava. Jesus. I really don't know what else to say. Tonight, I am thankful that Libby is resting beside me, and is not in pain. J

home from surgery

much more to come tomorrow. i was told not to blog. in case i regretted what i wrote because i am on such strong medications. but we are fine. i am sore and very uncomfortable from surgery and still very nauseous, justin is taking care of everything. he is perfect. even when i am fiesty. he braided my hair for me right before i went into surgery because the bump from my ponytail hurt when i laid down. i never knew he could braid. thanks for the prayers. they were heard because the appt with our new oncologist was so great. i love love my new doctor and my surgery went well.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

prom (from Justin)

this date was sweet... a prom. right after this picture was taken we slow danced to kc and jojo. good times.

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prom night

ava is napping. i just finished cleaning up the house because has have a showing at 5:30pm. pray this place rents asap so we can move to our dream house on the river. i am already decorating it in my head. justin asked me last night while we were laying in bed if he could take me to prom. i said sorry already did that in high school and it was not that cool. he said, no no, i want to take you because i never got to in high school. so tonight we are going to "prom" and bringing our ava of course. she is about to start having too many other people caring for her to she must be a part of it. after my appointments this morning we went to target because two of my best friends sent me a gift card and we picked out a dress for tonight. it helps if you have a target coupon, too. we picked it at the same time. i am real excited. we are going to carabbas. we love italian food. we have a gift card. you may see a pattern here. we usually only go places if we have a gift card. but tonight is going to be special. i can feel it. by the way its day 8 of our date. justin told me last week that we were on one big long date since we heard the news of last monday. and i hope it never ends. even when he has to go back to work and this season has passed. we will never go back to who we once were. not possible. i am thankful for that.

two more things have been my mind in the midst of hundreds. i have often thought how i wish people from my past knew me now. not who i was in middle school or high school or even parts of college. i was a brat, insecure, mean sometimes, self-absorbed, and lost. wow. its embarrassing to think about. but once i really started following jesus i knew i was becoming someone new. the old had gone and the new had come. i am not saying for one second that i have it all together now or anything like that. but i hope that people see me differently now than i was then. anyways, all this to say that since i have started blogging about our recent bump in road (as i like to call it) my inbox is getting flooded with emails. now that it has made its way to facebook i am getting messages from people i have not seen in ten years or people i have not talked to since college graduation. but its funny how things like this bring people together from everywhere. not funny, but maybe joyous because i love reading them. please know that i may not be able to respond but i read them. every single email, card, text, wall post, etc. i look forward to checking my email. thank you for praying for us and loving us. we feel it. we really do and its a gift. it brings me joy in the midst of all this. justin loves it too. jesus is in the business of making all things new and i am so very thankful.

last thing for today. people have been saying things like "you do not deserve this" or "why you?" well first off no one deserves cancer. its not how God works. its not a "deserve" or "not deserve" thing. our world is broken and sinful and therefore tough things happen that we can not explain. what saddens me the most is when things get tough people question God the most. but that is normal and part of the process. i am sure i will be getting angry along way, but i am clinging to what is real. i believe that God is who he says he is. he says trust him. so i do. he says lean not on your own understanding. perfect because i do not understand this one. because his plan is better than my own or our own. i know that right now this is what he wants for us. he could have stopped the cancerous cells in my body, but he didn't. however, today i trust that we are going to beat this and i will be a cancer survivor. but we have only just begun. and we are ready to fight when we have to, cry when we have to, and throw things if necessary to relieve a little stress if we have to. i have prayed for the past few years to be more passionate about jesus. well he is getting my attention with this one. i am not that strong. and you are right i do not deserve this. but who does? if not me than why someone else? this is my story and i proud that it is mine. i just took a break and read an email from my sweet aunt janie in chicago. she is supposed to be working but i think instead she was reading this blog. her email was sweet. i cried and got a lump in my throat. thanks for loving us.

today we got a stack of cards in the mail. wow i was excited when i saw that. keep them coming. like i said yesterday, i love mail. everything about it. thank you for the hundreds of emails, phone calls (i most likely cant return), and many ways people are communicating with us. we appreciate the prayers. lets not stop until my cancer is gone.

tuesday august 3, 2010 (medical update)

we went to see the surgeon this morning who will be doing my biopsy. its scheduled for tomorrow at 1pm. please pray for that. for the first since this all has started i am a little nervous about tomorrow. its surgery. they will put me under and i maybe in some pain afterward.. they are going to make a small incision in my neck and remove some of the lymph node to help diagnosis exactly what type of lymphoma. that will help us as we determine what treatment will look like. also tomorrow at 10am we are meeting with another oncologist to help us decide which dr we will go with. please pray for clarity with that too. my PET scan set for 2pm on thursday. my understanding with this test is that i will drink some sugar and then they will see where it goes in my body. it is attracted to the lymph nodes so it will go there and then later on when i am done with my treatment they will do another PET scan and if the sugar is not attracted to my lymph nodes then its gone. the cancer that is. remember, i am not a dr but this is how it has been explained to me. some great friends are taking ava for the day since we are pretty much booked with appointments. comforting to know she is in good hands.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Darling Libby (From Justin ~ a guest post)


I cannot even express, with a thousand words, the thousand things I am feeling tonight. Everything in life is real. Right now I do not have any fake things in my life. Everything is life or death. The stuff that doesn’t matter is truly gone and is not affecting my thinking. How often do I live like this? Not often. I hope it last forever. I can see clearly.

You are my wife. My dear, you have cancer. Lymphoma. You more than a conqueror in Christ. I think I am worried more than you. The first tears I shed over you last week were selfish ones, I am ashamed to say. In fact, you just found my keys that I couldn’t find, for the life of me. You are magic when it comes to finding things. You make so much of my life work and make sense. Now I am coming around and hurting for you unselfishly, hurting with you, for you, and realizing that you are going to go through suffering and that I can do nothing about it.

Lately, like never before, I have been looking into your eyes and seeing this incredible, sturdy, surprisingly rock sturdy, woman that I did not know, but whom I have known since 2005. I was so excited the other night when you were sleeping peacefully. You have not slept well lately. That is breaking my heart. I remember looking at you and thinking about the corners of your mouth and how they poke out when you smile. And Ava’s do the same. When I see them on Ava its like finding gold. You have taken care of her with great persistence. The other day when I was putting her to bed I told her you were sick and what that meant, and what you will most likely endure. I told her that I would be there for her when you are tired and that she shouldn’t worry. She kept drinking her milk (you call it “sucky” formula) and looking at me. She knows.

When we had Ava, I thought I had seen strength. But this is different. I know very few people who have walked this road. I know very few people who have gotten these kinds of calls from doctors (be in my office by 5pm, and bring your husband), and not just stayed in bed. Baby, I will never forget this past Monday, July 26th, 2010. When we set in that Dr’s office together something incredible was put into motion. A new understanding of our partnership.

You said it was “my fault” because I had been praying for you to be more passionate about Jesus (I hope you are still praying that for me as well). Of course, neither of us saw this coming at all. It was NOT in the plan. But it is in our plan. I did not read the Bible for two days after I found out. I couldn’t. I was numb for one thing, but honestly, I was afraid of what it might say. I was afraid I would see that God gave my wife cancer.

Now I know that God had this planned for US. I don’t doubt it. This is a week old and I feel like a different person. How? How can something change two people so quick?

I have to get honest. I used to bring work home with me. I guess just the “stresses” of ministry and the “things” I wanted to see get done. I think I forgot so many things I am waking up to.

Our sweet and tiny daughter Ava is restless. She will not sit down and rest peacefully in my arms. This is how I have lived for the last 3 years of my life. Very little rest. A lot of running around. I don’t care if I ever run again. Like I said, everything is real. Everything is alive. I can see past my small goals for life, past my stubborn heart. I can see a glimpse of freedom in Christ. Let's teach Ava to rest in the sovereignty of God.

And in you, my darling Libby, I see a picture of endurance. I can’t honestly say that I have felt more in my heart that someone should be lifted up as an encouragement to people. I would be proud to say I know you after this week, much less call you my wife. My joy KNOWS NO BOUNDS with you. My sweet wife whose hair always reminds me of winding rivers. My sweet wife, like I told her first, who has always been a gift. Libby, be who you are, my darling! Be you. IN Christ, its perfect. Mess up. Scream. Hit me. Cry on me. Ask me for help. Break down if you have to. Its OK. I will serve you, I promise and I promise again. As the three of us do this, figure this out, you do not have to be right or on time or collected. You just have to be you, and if you do that, you will have done this authentically. And relied on Jesus, who is the Greatest Friend you will have throughout the coming months. And you will fail, but He will not fail.You said it yourself. Don’t waste this cancer. All for Jesus my love. Let’s do this.

Love you like Day 1, but more. J.

monday august 2, 2010

its been a week. feels more like a year. you hear people say that, but really it does. crazy how in one small instant everything changes. justin and i talked about that a lot last week once we found out. you think about "what if the worst happened..." and then it does and its still just the three of us doing our thing. the same God that gave us our precious ava is the same God that gave me cancer.

today is a good day. since we were all supposed to be in NY at a yl camp for the month of august but clearly now we aren't we have some time on our hands. i love justin being home. i wish he never had to go back to work. the doorbell rang this morning and the nice ups man left me a package. i love mail. but who doesn't you know. its special when someone took the time to first off write you card or buy you something, then get a stamp, a box, maybe wrap the present, go to the post office, wait in line, and pay to mail it to you. made me smile. it was from two of my best friends from college. it was perfect. the family i babysit for brought over a meal and some gift cards. we love to eat out. its amazing when you can tangibly feel people loving you. its the community of Christ i mentioned before. like i said its real.

ava is my saving grace. she is so precious and so easy to care for. she sleeps great, she smiles, she likes formula since i can't nurse her and she loves applesauce. her first tooth is coming in. on the bottom right. she is tough because she is not acting whiny about her new tooth. ava is a gift because she gives me the best reason to get out of bed when its sometimes easier not to. i am thankful for that. i do not want to get depressed. not yet. people keep telling me i am strong. two things about that, ok three things. 1. when i am weak, HE is strong. 2. thanks for the compliment however. 3. you would be strong too if it were you and you were not relying on yourself but Jesus. we do not put our hope in anything else. you cant. if you do i promise it will fail you. like all the doctors we are working with. our hope can't be in them, since they are just people, hopefully smarter than your average person, but still just a man. also, when talking to my parents or my sisters i think its just hard for them because they feel helpless and want to see me. but please believe me when i say, today is really a good day and lets be thankful for that.

one thing that is hard for me still is that i am not really ready to see people yet. i may feel different in an hour, but i am just not sure i can handle it. so for those of you reading this in chesapeake...i do love you and i am not trying to be like this, i just think i need a minute. but i am beyond thankful for the thousands of people praying, sending texts, emails, cards, and bringing meals, etc. we are so thankful.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

the weekend (july 30-august 1, 2010)

i am checking my email constantly. as more and more people find out my inbox is filling up. i love to read the emails. i may not always respond that quickly but it helps to know people love you and are praying for you. especially people you do not know at all. that is what community in christ looks like...people love each other. in an authentic and genuine way. i am thankful to be in the family of christ. today is our first oncologist appointment. i am not nervous. we have a notebook with lots of questions and we feel prepared. when we arrive the office is nice and they know who i am without even asking my name. i liked that. we meet our dr and he is good. very informative and helpful. he was able to show us my ct scan on his laptop. it was amazing. so as you may or may not know your body is symmetrical so as we watched the scan you could see how different my left side looked from right because the lymph nodes were so enlarged. we spent almost three hours there and felt good after the appt. we updated everyone. still not convinced he is going to be the dr we stay with, but regardless things were in motion ie the biopsy and the PET scan. nothing gets scheduled so we wait to until monday. we get home and ava is going well. the floyds arrive (sara and tommy my sister and brother in law) tonight, but before that happens we get a call from them that the flights i booked (just trying to help because i had found a "great" deal) while on the phone with sara were accidentally booked for next month. not actually a great deal. in the future do not let the girl with cancer try to plan stuff, thankfully it gets worked out and they arrive that evening. we love them dearly. ava did perfect at dinner and barely made a sound. it was nice to be with family. cant sleep tonight and am up at 3am. my mind is racing. i can not stop my thoughts. that is when i start this blog. when i am finally getting tired around 6:25am i hear ava. so i am up.

today our place is getting shown. we are also trying to move to the river. some great people are opening up their home to us. we will rent still, but the place is wonderful. really hope it works. we get dunkin donuts and iced mochas. its our thing. if you have not tried one yet i suggest it. we get the house ready and head to lunch. aunt sara always gets ava such great gifts. this time it was her first Matilda Jane outfit. so cute. i will post a picture soon. lunch was perfect. good food and good conversation. i am forgetting i am sick. mostly because i really do feel fine. afterward sara and i get pedicures, relax, and talk. i am exhausted today. its tommy and sara's anniversary so we plan a nice dinner on the water with champagne on the table to surprise them (sara loves champagne). we toast and i take two sips. within about 15 minutes my left leg begins to hurt and i am trying not to cry in pain. its their special dinner. i do not want to ruin it. eventually i tell them what is going and we leave so i can be more comfortable. i am thankful but as we are walking to the car i start crying and get so angry. i hate that this is impacting our lives. i hate that this is real. i hate that i am being treated different. i suggest sara and i drive home and the guys go pick up take out. justin says no because he wants to stay with me. i go along with it as to not embarrass myself in front of family...but we get to the car...i am furious. not at justin or at anyone. but because i do not want to be treated different now that i am sick. tonight was hard. i was so upset. i hate that because of me things are different now. its real hard to adjust. we go home and put ava to bed. we set the table and they bring dinner home. its great and we laugh so much. they love me so well. to help me sleep i take tylenol pm and it works. i sleep until 10am and ava slept til 8am. it was a good morning.

i wake up to dunkin donuts ice mochas and breakfast that sara made. we just hang out today until ted has to drive home and floyds fly home. sara did my laundry and that was a gift. we talked and just sat around. it was nice. today was a good day. sara even was able to squeeze in a mini photo shoot of ava. sad to say goodbye but more family will be here soon. its hard to be so far away from the people you are the closest to. justin and i talk in bed about our lives, our marriage, and how the Lord is doing big things in our hearts. we are not sure what it all means yet, but its real. i feel so close to justin. so comfortable. like i really can share my heart and the thoughts that i sometimes keep to myself. we have never been closer. its nice to spend so much together. our life does not really allow that usually. today is a good day. we skype with my mom and dad. nice to connect with them. its hard to see your parents sad. or talk to your sisters when they cry. but i guess its just a part of all this.

thursday july 30, 2010

today is the worst day yet. before today i really did have a good attitude. i did not want to "go there" in my head yet about what is to come. what type, stage, chemo, and radiation. i was in my pajamas all day. i napped when ava napped. justin has been wonderful. he is so willing to serve me and do whatever i ask. yesterday he spent the entire day doing landscaping outside. the yard needed it, but i also think it was good for him to be distracted. today i spent time researching lymphoma. not to scare myself, but to educate us before our appt tomorrow. these past two days have been a nice break from seeing doctors. i called my dr today and found out that there would be no biopsy scheduled until my oncologist made the appointment. i spent a lot of time on the phone with my sisters and mom today as we planned when they would all be coming in to see us. our good friends are letting us use their beach house in the outer banks for a week or so and if it works with dr appts and stuff my family will be going there. its great. its nice and big and it will fit everyone. i really want to be there and relax and get away for a bit. we will see if it works out that way. my parents live in wa so they are across the country. that is hard. they are coming in a week or so too. later today justin's dad is arriving from ky. that will be great for justin i think. me too but for sure him. and ava can see her "pop pop." i started crying real hard today and asked my sister and law to come this weekend. it was a decision based solely on emotion. so they are coming tomorrow night. it will be nice to have family in town. ted and justin make dinner and its great. right after dinner my left legs starts to hurt terribly. so i take some medicine and try to sleep. the pain is awful. today was a bad day. today it all seemed a little more real.

wednesday july 28, 2010

i wake up early with ava. she is a great sleeper, but recently she has been getting up at 6:30am. too early. give her a bottle and she watches baby einstein nursery numbers. she loves it. she has watched it a hundred time and when it comes on she acts like its the first time. i lay back in bed, but cant sleep. i check my email. as people begin to find out i start getting emails. i love that. i feel so loved and prayed for. prayer works. in case you are reading this and doubting prayer, let me assure it does. it does not mean that we get the answer we want, but we do get the answer He wants. that is what i am holding too. the truth that God knows what is best for me, justin, and ava. better than what i know. its still hard. we wait for the dr call. but he does not call today and when i call his office i just got voicemail. good news. one of the oncologist we want to see can get me in on friday instead of monday. perfect. waiting is hard. today more people find out. justin sends out an email to all of the young life staff in our region. that spreads to the entire country and before i know it i am getting emails and texts and calls from people everyone. all saying they are praying. its helpful. knowing people love us and knowing that people really are praying. today i am in my pajamas all day. so is ava. but today is good. i try to stay off the phone but i am not good at that. i want to talk to my family and my friends. but i am worn out. telling the story over and over. sometimes i can pull myself together great and others times i cry through the whole thing. i am really really all over the map today emotionally. its becoming more real. i am forgetting to eat. not on purpose but we move through the day so quickly. tonight i am try to go to bed early. but end up on the phone until too late. 2am and ava is up at 6:30am.