Saturday, January 24, 2009

Questions and Answers:

Okay, this post is going to be a little different. We have been able to get out more recently. In doing so, we have been able to see a lot of people that we haven't seen in a while. We realized people have a lot of questions. We want to answer some of them and open it up for you to ask anything you may want to ask us as well.

-I will try to faithfully answer some of what I have commonly heard. "Is everything back to normal since you are out again with CJ?" I guess this is a tricky one for me. As you know from my previous post, CJ had his last high dose and so far is tolerating it extremely well. Once again, all the glory goes to the Lord and a big thank you for the prayers. They are carrying us through and I truly believe God has had favor on CJ because of your prayers. You also already know that he has until Feb 4th to begin a new phase that will be very involved in both our time and his meds. Knowing that, we have stepped out a little more on faith in taking him out with us. Typically, and especially if we did not know his blood counts, he would stay with one of us while the other went to the store. We avoided large restaurants if we ate out at all. And we did not bring him to large gatherings of people. But we have gotten a little relaxed and taken him out more as of recently. This has mainly been because of how well he has handled the medicine, because his counts remained stable throughout this phase and because we sense he and his little brothers need it. Many people who have seen us out have asked if this means things are 'back to normal'. And then I come face to face with that word normal again. I contemplate it and hesitate with my answer because if I were completely honest, I don't ever want to be able to say we are back to normal. I know that sounds selfish and it may come across as cold but let me try to explain. I am realizing more and more that my normal was very broken. There was so much sin in my heart as a mother and I don't ever want to go back to that. I was selfish and impatient and did not like what I saw in myself much of the time. I valued the wrong things, like peace and cleanliness in the home and respect amongst and from my children. Now, I know it is not wrong to value those things but when you are willing to sin against your family to get them...then it is wrong. Second, and more confusing is that what I have been struggling with the most lately is that I do not want to go through something this life changing and life not be changed. Does that sound crazy? I know I should want nothing more than to be back doing the things we were doing before. But I can't imagine it all being over and just going 'back to normal'. I don't know why I am so terrified of that. It seems so strange but it is always in the back of my mind. I keep asking God, what happens when the treatments are over? Do I just resume life as before? I don't know what I am expecting or if in expecting anything I am setting myself up for disappointment. And I wonder if once again I am being selfish in feeling this way. All that said, the question was: are we back to normal? Heavens no! And we don't ever want to be! Note: I should probably speak for myself here because I am sure CJ and Chris would completely disagree with me on that one.

-Speaking of Chris...the next question I have heard is "Why doesn't Chris do a blog post?" Great question! Easy answer. He does! Every post I write is filtered through and guided by my loving best friend and husband. And that person is one and the same. He makes any additions and changes and makes the final decision of whether to post it or not. He feels that I am reflecting what we are both going through and he holds me accountable for biblical accuracy as well. He has typed things about his experiences with CJ but it was a lot like reading a police report. I think maybe he has been in that line of work for too long! Actually, he is a great writer as well but in this case an even better editor. So if you find any typos they are his fault! Just kidding.

-The next question I hear a lot is "How is CJ doing spiritually?"
Thank you for asking! This is also a question I hesitate to answer quickly. First, I know I can not speak for the Holy Spirit living within him to say exactly how he is doing. And I admit that I personally pray more for this area than I probably do for his physical protection. I have to watch myself and be careful to not assume that because he has not written any poems lately or said or done any profound thing to speak of that he somehow is struggling spiritually or stifling the spirit. He is a 9 year old boy after all. He has always been a more "spiritual" child than typical and I sometimes can expect more from him because of that. Overall, I believe he is doing well in this area. He has a childlike faith that I envy. I remember a while ago he and I were discussing the different struggles some family members had when this first happened and how easy it is to question God when things like this happen. So I asked him what he thought. And he so sincerely and simply said to me, "I never questioned if God was there or that He was in control, I just wondered why it was happening." He was so sincere and that simple statement really moved me. I was thankful he was grounded enough at his age in his relationship with God to feel secure that God was there, God knows his situation, and God is in control. So I would say he is doing as well as can be expected! Regardless, I would welcome any prayers from all you prayer warriors in this area of his life. Ask God to keep his spirit tender and his faith strong. Ask God to continue to speak to him and through him.

-The next questions I have heard sooooo much and is something we are going to deal with once and for all. It is actually not so much a question as a statement that is repeated over and over everywhere I go. It goes something like this...
"I love the blog and it has helped me so much."
"Thank you."
"It has really encouraged me."
"I'm so glad to hear that."
"We are praying for you and I feel so close to your family because of it."
"Thank you for your prayers, we do too."
"I check it everyday and read all the comments too."
"Really, I did not know you read it. Have you ever commented?"
"I've wanted to but I'm embarrassed."
"Of what?"
"I don't know. What people will think I guess."
"Are you kidding, have you seen some of the stuff I have said about myself?"

Okay guys....this is the exact conversation I have had with countless people. So if you are one of those people, be encouraged, you are not alone! I have been praying about it and asking God why this same conversation is repeated so many times. What is He trying to reveal to me? At first, I just thought it was as simple as some people want to leave a comment and others don't. Or...some people are more technologically savvy than others. doesn't really matter as long as people read it and pray for CJ, right? That is what it is for after all. But after hearing this repeated so many times I knew there was more to it. I want to challenge everyone because I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by friends that challenge me. Over the past year, I have learned many things at my church that have helped me confront my sin. One such thing that I did not even realize I was suffering from was "Fear of Man." When I first hear my pastor preach on it I did not realize how much I struggled with it. Sounds ridiculous, right? Fear of man? What's that. I am not afraid of man! But when it came down to it, if I really took a look at my behavior and my reactions I realized I was exhibiting signs that I surely was. For me it was exhibited in different ways. If I withheld during worship in fear of what the guy behind me might "think of me" that was fear of man for me. If I ignored the Spirits leading and would not pray openly in front of others for fear of what they would think of me or how I would sound, I was dealing with fear of man. If I withheld a loving truth from someone I am close to because I did not want to offend them or risk them not liking me, I was exhibiting fear of man. If I withheld a word of encouragement from someone because I was afraid I would sound stupid or jumble my words or not have a scripture for them, I was dealing guessed it...fear of man. I could go on and on and really embarrass myself with all the ways God showed me I suffered from this but I think you get the point. Once I became aware of it, I asked God to deal with this in me. And needless to say, he answered faithfully by putting pretty much my whole life on display through this blog. That will really deal with your fear of man. Now I know my situation may not encourage you to want to ask God to deal with your fear of man. But I would bet He will be a bit more gentle with you. And if He is be it! It is worth it to suffer the trial if we get to walk away from bondage that is destroying our testimonies, our witness and stealing our joy and victory. Okay, so why do we have to deal with it? Because Proverbs 29:25 says "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." We do not want to be snared my friends. We want to be set free! And Christ is all about freedom. Remember, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because of fear of man! We do not want to wander in the wilderness in our time here on earth. We want to live lives of purpose that are used for Gods glory! I know what it feels like to feel like I am just wandering through life with no real purpose. I just did not know that my fear of man was a major cause of it. So how do we deal with it. Well first, I think we take it to God and confess it and ask Him to deal with it. Then, a good first step is just simple obedience to the Spirits prompting. When you feel that inner desire to encourage someone....say it. When you feel the spirit leading you to pray with or for it. When you feel God saying lift your hands to heaven and worship me all it! When you sense God putting a word on your heart for someone...share it. And hear my joy when I tell you from experience, obedience breeds more obedience. It gets easier and easier. Amazing isn't it! Just as sin gives birth to death, obedience gives birth to life! I know all this is easier said than done but I hope that since it is coming from one former captive to another, that it will encourage you. And yes, even though I have had a lot of victory in this area thanks to the blog, I still struggle. For example...God has been prompting me to write this blog and challenge this 'fear of man' for a while. He has had to repeat that above conversation with different people many times to get it through my thick skull. Why did I hesitate? You guessed it. Fear of man! I was worried what you all would think, how it would be received, and if it would it really help anyone? But then I realized...if one captive can be set is worth it.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear) but a spirit of power, of love and of self discipline." 1Timothy 1:7

I know this is a serious topic that could go on and on and I have only lightly touched on it. If you think you may be struggling with it I would encourage you to type the words 'fear of man' in the google search engine and you will find many devotions on it and even a little quiz you can take to see if this applies to you. I would also like to encourage you that as we break this in our lives the benefits trickle down to our children's lives. I have seen CJ's fear of man diminish as I have dealt with mine. Oh, how I long to hand down a legacy of freedom and not of bondage to my children. That is motivation enough!

-Questions anyone? Okay, this is where I open it up to your questions. It does not matter if it is a practical question, a serious question, a silly question or just something you are curious about. It can be about CJ or any one of us. Maybe you have a questions about just dealing with life with cancer in general. Or even a question about cancer. It can be for any member of the family to answer. Ask away. I am sure it will be something someone else was wondering about too. Feel free to be anonymous in your questions. (We won't assume you are dealing with fear of man or anything!) Of course, you don't have to have a question to post a comment. You don't have to be family to post a comment and you don't even have to know us personally. Just let us know you are there and where you are from. You do not need to start a blogger account to comment. You can avoid this by clicking on anonymous and then just typing your name at the end of your post as many people do.

*A little note to the family in Puerto Rico who we have never met, who has blessed our family with your love, prayers and generosity. Thank you! From the depth of our hearts, thank you!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Comfort in the Valleys

Where we are:
Today is day 41 of a 57 day phase and CJ received the final dose for this phase of the treatment! He did well and is now home relaxing. Praise God! We were told to bring him back Tuesday morning just for counts. I assume the concern is that he could need a transfusion of blood or platelets so they are going to check his blood and see how he tolerates this increased dose. We are praying he tolerates it well and remains free from the common side effects. By the grace of God he has made it this far with no mouth sores or severe side effects to speak of. We are amazed at God's grace towards him and thank you all for your constant prayer covering him. Please continue to pray he suffers no side effects and fervently pray for his organs (particularly his liver) to remain unaffected and healthy.

What's coming:
Day 57 will end this phase on Feb 4th. We are grateful for the 16 days between now and then for CJ's body to process this medicine and recover from any affects. He will then go into 're-induction/re-consolidation' which is somewhat like repeating the beginning phases of his treatments. The doctor mentioned today that this will be his toughest phase and then he will enter long-term maintenance. We have had our eyes set on maintenance knowing he will only need to be seen about once a month and will receive most his chemo meds at home, but when the doctor said this would be his toughest phase coming it jolted me back to reality. The reality is we need to focus on getting him through this next phase strong and well before we set our eyes on maintenance. It will be a 7 week phase that will be "tough" because he will be at the hospital 3 days a week again like he was in the beginning. He will be receiving new medicines, strong medicines, multiple shots, and it will include a hospital overnight and home health chemo. At that time, I will be beseeching you again for prayer to cover us as we pass through that 7 week valley.

Where we've been:
As I sit here tonight and process how far we have come and how far we have to go I find myself feeling as if I am passing through the mountains. We began by entering a dark unknown valley surrounded by many hills. At times it seemed as if the walls of the mountains were narrowing in and the path was dark except for a few steps ahead. At other moments in the trek, there were beautiful rays of light that shone down on us to light our path. Even a rainbow would peek through now and again. Then there would be a break in the valley and we would find ourselves in a wide open expanse enjoying the fresh air, the still waters and the beautiful view. Now, I see the path narrowing and leading us to a new valley. A 'tough' valley. I don't know what challenges and obstacles lie ahead, yet I am comforted that we have the experience of having walked through the previous valleys. We gained strength and knowledge in those valleys that will help us through those ahead. We were comforted in those valleys by a covering of prayer and our Father's constant presence. As the hills loom ahead in the distance and there is a temptation to wonder where our help will come from, I am reminded that "my help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth"! There is comfort in the valley. Along with the great psalmist David, I am reminded that even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for He is with me. His rod and his staff will comfort me. I also take comfort in His promises. I was reminded today that even if I forget them, or I do not know them, He does not forget the promises he made towards me. He keeps them regardless of if I know them or not. And regardless of whether a little boy of 9 can fully grasp the promises His Lord has made regarding His life, they are still his promises too and the Lord will not forget. "The LORD is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made." Psalm 145:13b So we will cling to His promises as we enter the valley. And we will come out victorious shouting praises to our great God and King.

Speaking of promises:

Psalm 121
I lift my eyes to the hills-
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip-
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you-
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm-
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Beyond all Question...

I am so sorry for how long it has taken me to get a post up. Thank you for emailing and asking about CJ. Thank you for praying faithfully for him even when you are not sure how he is doing. One reason I have not been able to get on is that I have been trying to spend more time alone with the Lord, more time alone with each kid, and more time with my husband. I know that sounds weird coming from a full time stay at home mom who homeschools all her children. But one thing I have learned over the years is you can live in the same house and spend day after day 24/7 with your children and never really spend time with them at all. Not quality time at least. So I have been aiming for quality time and that takes time. The other is just exhaustion that prevents me from being able to stay up and blog after they get to bed. So I apologize for not providing an update sooner. I took CJ to his appointment on Thursday and began to blog while we were there. I was not able to get it up at the time so I will finish it and add it below. It should bring you up to date on his treatments.

Thursday January 8, 2009:

We are at Pediatric Ambulatory for CJ's Intrathecal Spinal Tap and and increased dose of chemo. As I prepare to go in to the procedure room with him I begin to prepare my heart and mind with prayer and scripture. He is writing in his journal and as the procedure draws closer you can visually see his anxiety increase. I am realizing how much he is like me because he exhibits his anxiety by wanting to create order and peace around him. He begins straightening up the table in front of him and puting things away. As I watched him I remembered a bracelet I had bought him that says FEAR NOT on it so I pulled it out and gave it to him. He put it on looked at it. Then he relaxed and we waited. There is so much waiting!
Procedure complete! CJ slept soundly and I got through another spinal on my feet. I got a little nauseous this time when CJ did not fall asleep as peacefully as he usually does and the needle didn't go in smoothly at first like it usually does, but I began to pray and focus on God's Sovereignty and was able to relax. I felt a little tense as the procedure began and there was blood when there usually is none, but I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the first drop of spinal fluid begin to drip clear. Not that I would be able to visually tell if the cancer had spread to his spine and the fluids will still need to be tested, but somehow I feel relief when I see them drip clear. CJ slept for a long time after the procedure and the nurse administered the rest of his chemo meds while he was sleeping. We have grown close to her over the past few months and I know she genuinely cares for my son and my family. We also share the same faith and I was able to share with her a time God used her to speak to me to relieve my fears about the chemotherapy medications. A couple of months back, He had prompted her to suddenly say that the medicine CJ was receiving was made from a plant as she was administering the medicine through his port. I couldn't believe she had said it, because it was at a time I was struggling with different alternatives being presented to me from different directions that came down very hard on chemotherapy. It's a long story, but needless to say, she faithfully spoke what God placed in her mind not knowing it was specifically for me and it encouraged me in a tremendous way. In essence, God was saying to me, "I am in complete control whether CJ receives medication through his port in a hospital or homeopathic alternatives administered at home." I really needed to hear that at that time. And today I needed another reminder. I amaze myself at how easily I forget or venture away from a truth He has already established for me. New information comes my way and I suddenly question Him all over again. He did not need to send me that confirmation the first time through our nurse's comment that day, but He is kind and compassionate to our needs and struggles. He knows our fears and questions and when we surrender them to Him, He will faithfully answer even when we are hardheaded and need to hear it again, like I did today.

The doctor was concerned about CJ's reaction to the shots last week and decided to remove that medication from CJ's treatment plan. He explained that it will be replaced with a new medicine that is from Europe. It is not available here in the United States because it is not approved by the USFDA. It takes time and coordination to get it here so the doctor asked me to read, review and sign some paperwork to get the ball rolling in order for CJ receive it. As I read over the forms, God once again spoke to me about fears and concerns that began weighing in on me this past week. The paperwork explained that the medicine CJ previously received that he reacted to was made from the E-Coli bacteria. The new medicine he will be receiving is made from a plant source. I read it and realized God knew I was struggling again and that I needed that reminder that He was in control and I did not need to allow fear to creep in. So maybe CJ's mild reaction is a good thing. Maybe it was even a God thing! It gets CJ off a drug made from bacteria to one made from a plant. It relieved my fears and questions that began to creep in. I am so thankful He is willing to answer our questions and calms our fears.

Questions.....That is something I seem to have a lot of lately. I am struggling with all I am seeing around me at the hospital. Struggling to understand. It is not even what is happening to our family. I can accept what is happening to us and make sense of it all. It is what we see happening all around us in a broader picture because of this experience. God is reversing so much of my thinking and understanding that my head is spinning a little. What I thought was rich, is now poor. What I thought was blessed, is now cursed. What I thought was prosperity, is now poverty. What I thought was life, is now death. What I thought was faith, I don't know. So there are questions.....lots of them. At first I was ashamed to have them. Ashamed of the internal struggle to make sense of so much. I felt I should be able to stand on my faith alone and have no questions. Don't ask why, just keep moving forward. Don't think about it. But then I realized He can handle my questions. He is the Truth after all. And just as He calmed my fears and answered my questions about the chemo meds I know He can provide the answers I am seeking and calm my confused mind. Yet, I know some things are "beyond all questions" and this is where I must rely on His word, His truth, and His promises. Oh, that I would find rest in what I know, that I know, that I know.

In closing (and to end my babbling) today is day 32 of a 57 day phase. I can not wait for this phase to be over. With each increased dose I feel like we are on pins and needles in a wait and see pattern as far as reactions go. CJ has fared amazing well so far and I can not thank you enough for your prayers. I believe they are making all the difference in the world. I believe God has been especially moved by the prayers of your children. The stories you have shared with Chris and I about the faithful prayers of your little children amaze us. One little girl who is only 3 never fails to remember to pray for "JJ" Don't you just love that? She tells her mommy, "and JJ, we pray for JJ". I can sense God's smile as she prays for a boy whose name she can not pronounce, she never even met and yet she never forgets!

In regards to prayer for CJ; if I can be so bold as to ask you to "kick it up a notch" as we close out this phase. Please pray for him to remain side effect free. Pray for his body and organs to tolerate these increased doses. He started this phase at 110mg and is up to 275mg. He will end out with 300mg if his body can tolerate it. Pray for his strength and sustainment. Thank you is not adequate, but all I can humbly say. I will repay you on my knees. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Dawn George; on behalf of the George Family.

"Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory."
1 Timothy 3:16

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year, Without Regret!

CJ had his treatments on Monday and Tuesday. And he experienced his first allergic reaction to the medications. It was completely unexpected since he has received these meds before. It gave us a little scare but we were able to manage it. It was a reaction to his double shots he received on Tuesday in his legs. He has to have the shots administered at the same time, so they have two nurses come in the room and do it simultaneously. CJ got two of his favorite nurses which was a blessing because it actually cuts his anxiety down quite a bit when he has someone he is comfortable with. They started teasing him by telling him they each do it better than the other. He thinks this is funny. They tell him to tell them which leg hurts less after they are done. Then Lotsy came and started playing the harmonica. Then his friend Jia came and started telling him silly ways to handle the shots. It was quite a sight as we were all crowded around as he got his are some pictures.

Ready set go....

Daddy, Lotsy and Jia entertaining CJ while he gets his shots and Corey checking CJ's legs for swelling.
He did well receiving the shots and had no immediate reaction. He was a little nervous right before but whenever his friend Jia is around it is really impossible for any of us to feel sorry for
ourselves. He is a walking miracle and still has a huge battle ahead of him.

Lord God, I beg you to be with this boy and his mother. Help me to share your son with them regardless of language or culture barriers. Send your people to care for them and sustain them. Help me to do for them faithfully as others have done for me and my son.

CJ was held for an hour after the shot to see if there is any reaction before they let him leave. When we got home he was completely exhausted. For the first time since the treatments began, he fell asleep and took a 3 or 4 hour nap. When he woke up that evening we noticed the reaction. His lips were completely swollen. He looked like a he just got out of a boxing match. We knew he was having an allergic reaction but he said he felt fine, had no trouble breathing and his tongue was not swollen; only the lips. So we called the doctor who said to give him benedril and then take him to the Emergency Room. After administering the meds, praying, and watching we decided against going to the ER. The benedril worked quickly and we saw no other reaction. We are so thankful God allowed us to catch this reaction and avoid a trip back to the hospital. I realized CJ was asleep for the first few hours he was probably having the reaction and we would never have known if he was having a serious reaction or not. Thank you Lord for your presence and watchful eye on CJ even when ours are not available.
The next day was New Years Eve and we celebrated here at home. We let CJ request a new years dinner. He chose pizza and spaghetti. So pizza and spaghetti it was! We lit off fireworks in the back yard for the kids, sat around our fire pit and read letters we prepared for each other. We watched the ball drop at midnight and toasted with sparking cider! It was nothing extravagant, but we were together and I could not have asked for anything more.
As I look back over the year, I can not believe all that we have experienced. It began with us selling our land in Virginia and letting go of a dream to move to the mountains. I have heard the expression that when one door closes, God opens a window. But I think that is backwards. I think when you wait on God and seek His will, what appeared to be a door is actually the window. As the window closes, God throws open a door. He did that for us when that dream was replaced by the fulfillment of another. ....being baptized by immersion in the arms of my husband, after witnessing him be baptized in the lake in the back yard of our home. He also closed many other windows and opened many other doors for us. We grew and learned a lot as the year progressed. CJ's health and anxiety issues were our biggest battle throughout the year and yet we still never would have imagined we would end the year with a child battling cancer. It is an eye opening realization that as we begin this new year, none of us know where we will end up. Chris and I did not finish off this year like we planned. We did not end where we thought we were headed. But to have accomplished all our plans and yet be apart from God's plan for our lives, that would have been a total failure. We will still set goals and chart our course for this new year. We will make plans and we have hopes and dreams. But if it ends there, we fail. We must take those goals, charts, plans, hopes and dreams and lay them before our Father and surrender them to Him. Not our will, but His be done! That is the making of a successful year!

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
Proverbs 16:3
We wish you all a happy new year fully surrendered to Him who determines our steps. We thank all of you who have come along beside of us during this time. So many of you have helped, encouraged and supported us in so many different ways. We thank everyone who has bowed their knee before the throne of grace to ask for mercy for CJ. These prayers have given us strength and I believe God has responded to the cries of His people and had mercy on CJ in return. Please continue to intercede for him in this new year. He is only 3 and a half months into a two year battle of chemotherapy. We have three more months of active chemotherapy and we are praying to enter the maintenance stage at the end of that on schedule in full remission! Pray God will continue to pour His mercy on CJ in healing physically and growth spiritually.

I will leave you with a quote from CJ. The other day he was playing and suddenly he said, "Mommy, you know what hell must be like?"
I said, " What?"
He said, "I think hell is like living in a world of regret."
I think that says it all! I am going to take CJ's advice. Not only for my place in eternity, but for here and now. I will not live in a world of regret thinking of all the things I did not accomplish this past year or all the mistakes I made over the course of it. I will chose to receive God's grace and mercy and look ahead to what His plans are for me in this coming year. Then I can truly say to you without regret.....Happy New Year.