Tag Archives: cancer

Down The Rabbit Hole – Three Years Later

While yesterday was a day of wonderful memories, today marks three years from the day we received Kristi’s breast cancer diagnosis. I remember the phone call vividly. The solemn monotone of the doctor, the look in Kristi’s eyes, the immediate tightness in my gut. Here’s the post about that day. My first post.

I’m encouraged as I read that post that even on day one I was looking to work with my Father above to bring about good in the situation. Boy has that turned out differently than I thought, planned or desired.

I didn’t realize it then, but grief arrived that very day. I didn’t know it was grief, but it was. We were planning to go out on an anniversary dinner, eighteen years plus one day late. Since we already had the children looked after we went to dinner anyway, just so we could process the news. It was a miserable affair. Without knowing anything about how serious her fight would become, that phone call ripped joy and peace right out from under us. We sat and stared at each other, pushing our food around our plates, appetites gone. We mumbled to each other, our breath too weak to form words properly. We stared blankly at the waitress, her cheery words falling on wan smiles.

It fundamentally altered our marriage. She became the patient and I became the caregiver. All those changes brought grief. Grief of days wasted, time lost, changed roles, new responsibilities and so many more changes, little and big that are in the rabbit hole of fighting cancer.

I was determined that it wouldn’t define our relationship. We would beat it and move on. Living and loving each other more deeply for the scare she’d had. Nope. Didn’t work out that way either. And yet, by giving vent and voice to the grief over the years I’ve been able to let it flow on by. Feel it, own it, experience it and let it go. It will come again. That’s cool. I’ll dance with it again and then send it on down the line once more.

And in the letting go of grief, love remains. Life remains. Cancer hasn’t defined our relationship. We fought to make our marriage great for 19 years and three months and we succeeded. Cancer didn’t change that.

But the premature end of Kristi’s life has put a spotlight on how precious each day is that remains. My goal is still the same as it was on 18+1, three years ago today. Labor in love with my Heavenly Father to bring about all manner of good in this life.

Don’t avoid your grief. That will derail you. Meet it head-on. Let it come. Experience it. Soul-shaking sobs. Heart-rending cries. Whatever it takes. So you can let it go. So Love can remain.

“Now these three remain, Faith, Hope and Love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13


Should You Pull The Trigger?

In less than twenty-four hours my father and I board the plane in Romania and head for home. Its been a fantastic week. New friendships started, old friends greeted, new foods eaten, lives shared, encouragement given and received for the journey ahead. As I prepare to leave, I find myself energized and expectant about the future.

Three years ago I was in the same position. My father and I had just completed a similar trip to Romania. I returned home full of excitement about what was to come. One month later, Kristi was diagnosed with cancer and we were plunged down the rabbit hole that is cancer treatment. Expectation was thwarted, dreams crushed and hope smothered.

That was an awful time, not so far removed that the emotions are deeply buried. It doesn’t require much effort to dig them up. If I wanted. But I choose not to. I choose to not burden this experience in Romania with the negative events that followed my last visit. “You are wise, Chad. You would be foolish to live in such a way.” I can hear the comments now. But that choice wasn’t automatic or quick. Loss and grief of this magnitude color all your decisions.

Obviously this trip has brought to mind the previous one and the events that followed. Its been a natural trigger. I knew it would be before I even agreed to come. I knew I’d be faced with this situation again. But rather than cowering in fear of what comes next, I’ve chosen to walk through this trip and the events that follow with expectation of a different outcome.

When dealing with loss and grief, you encounter trigger events all the time. As I wrote here, many of those events are little things that surprise you. You have two choices when you encounter trigger events, especially those you see coming: Avoid or Embrace

Avoidance can be especially helpful, especially when the grief or loss is fresh. I took my children and skipped out on the usual Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations the first year by going to the other side of the world. We still celebrated but in a way that was so new and unique that it didn’t drag us through all the emotions and pain we were still processing.

But this year I embraced all the holiday celebrations. We fully decorated the house, even doing it before Thanksgiving. There were many trigger events throughout the season that I had to wade through and process. But I was prepared this year and we had a wonderful time together as a family. Poignant with loss yes, but filled with joy nevertheless.

As you approach an event that you know is going to trigger feelings of grief and loss, ask yourself, “Is it OK to pull this trigger?” “Am I ready for this?” There’s no shame in saying no. Its your call. Don’t feel obligated to move forward when you’re not yet ready. The time will come. You’ll know it. And then you can pull the trigger, step into the event and live. If you’re not there yet, know that the day will come. There is hope.

If you’re trapped in fear of trigger events, avoiding them at all costs, and have been stuck there for a while with avoidance your only coping tool, try some training. You’ll be amazed at how good a brisk walk, bike ride or jog will make you feel. You’ll feel better prepared to face those events and pull that trigger to get life moving again.


A Bitter Pill

Perpetually pissed. That’s how bitterness strikes me. When grief first gripped me, right at the start of Kristi’s battle with cancer, I was seriously angry. I yelled on the phone and in person with numerous friends both brave and gracious enough to let me vent. I yelled often during Kristi’s fifteen month battle. Never in her presence, or the children either. Sometimes while running, often while driving. I raged at the helplessness I experienced. I ragged on the process and the treatment my precious wife had to endure. Our life was forever changed and that wasn’t fair. I was pissed.

I get mad quickly, heat flushing my cheeks. But neither do I hold on to anger; I let it go after it runs its course. I realized early on that I was going to have to keep flushing the anger through. Not to deny it or hide it, but let it out in a safe place so I could get back to supporting Kristi and our children. I found solace in long runs, swims and bikes. I could rage while alone if needed. More often I could simply channel the frustration of setbacks into my workout of the day, bleeding off the negative emotions and releasing positive energy that helped fuel me for the long road ahead.

With so many tasks requiring 100% of my time and focus, I knew I didn’t have the energy to remain angry all the time. Being bitter just takes too much effort. It steals what precious reserves of energy I have while robbing me of the emotional sense needed to connect with my children.

Bitterness is a choice. You don’t have to live there. Its not dishonoring to your wife to let go of the anger. And if anger is the only engine that drives your daily living, its going to be a lonely journey, much lonelier than it has to be. Try training. And try this short prayer:

“God, I’m always angry. Its killing my energy, emotions and relationships. I want to let it go, but don’t know how. Would you take this from me, please? Thanks.”

Peace to you my friends.

PS- Be encouraged, if you repeatedly let the anger go, I have found it stops returning after time. I don’t get angry anymore about my situation. I look for joy and a reason to smile each day.

Choose Yourself

You’ve been picked! You are chosen. The question is, will you choose back?

God, through Jesus, has chosen you. Awesome, right!? But here’s the catch so many miss. He’s waiting for you to choose back. Not just to choose him…that’s the message we hear all the time from the pulpit… but to choose yourself too. We love to say, “Yes, I choose God! Now He’s in control! I’m off the hook.” Its a “whatever happens now is God’s will for my life” outlook. Nice. You just embraced fate.

Your Father isn’t looking for fatalists. According to Jesus he’s looking for friends. Fatalists are a drag, constantly offloading responsibility. Friends walk side by side, sharing the load. Friends are mutually engaged in the relationship. But to genuinely and authentically engage another, you must first engage yourself. Choose to feel, choose to be open and vulnerable. Choose to commit. Choose to trust. After all, you can’t follow the command to love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself.

Kristi and I were friends. I think that’s what I miss most. One year ago today, her cancer showed up again after its brief hiatus. All the surgeries, the chemo, and the radiation had failed…utterly. It was a scary day. We started out the door that morning for her bone density scan when we got the call that her brain MRI was positive for a tumor. Stunned by the news we quickly changed plans and went to my parent’s place to process and pray. While there Kristi had a debilitating pain attack/seizure that demanded a 911 response and ambulance transfer to the ER. As I followed the ambulance on the freeway, tears soaked my shirt while I sobbed/screamed out “NO!” until I was hoarse.

I just looked back at my post that day. It was quite sedate compared to the emotions surging through me. I was frightened, I was hurting for my wife, and concerned about my children. I was angry too. But the crisis demanded focus to deal with the unfolding events. We got the worst possible diagnosis. It was nip and tuck as to whether she’d even pull through the first two or three days. I wept in the arms of friends and family as the process of losing my wife began.

After that she couldn’t choose herself anymore, relationally anyway. I understood. Her focus was on basic physical tasks. As she regressed from mobile adult to requiring infant level care over the next three and a half months, it was that loss of a friend that hurt most. That loss of intimate confidant. The loss of one who vested her full trust in me and I in her.

I’ll be honest, I still miss that today. I think that’s natural. But it left a big void. One that I’m just now starting to fathom in its entirety. And the thought of choosing myself again? Intimidating. Trusting a broken heart is like standing on a broken leg. The pain shoots out, the leg collapses involuntarily and down you go. Yet, making that choice is the only way forward. If I don’t choose myself, I can’t fully engage with my Father. Healing is there in that relationship. Hope and restoration are too. Those have all felt distant recently. Some nearness would be golden right about now.

So I’ll continue to do the heavy lifting of choosing me. Of being present and honest to not only my Heavenly Father but to myself. Choosing yourself means no hiding…especially from yourself.

The apostle John said “God is love.” His compatriot Paul said “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…Love never fails.” That means that as I choose myself and Him, that he’ll bear me up when my strength falters, believe in me even when I don’t, impart hope when mine wanes and stand with me through all the hurt. He won’t fail me.

Kind of sounds like wedding vows doesn’t it? Hmm, maybe that’s why He instituted marriage! But that’s another topic for another day.

Will you choose yourself? If it feels too vulnerable or exposed, I get it. It feels like too much responsibility. But that’s life as a lover. Vulnerable, exposed and responsible.

God has made his choice. What’s yours going to be? Will you choose you? Choose love, choose life.

PS- If you hurt too much right now to be open and vulnerable, that’s ok. Start there. Choose yourself by simply sharing with Him how much you hurt. He’ll take that as a starting point. His specialty is restoring brokenness and healing the hurt. He’s dying to lead you out of that place… I for one am glad to be on that path!

Marathon, Not a Sprint

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint, Kristi.” We must have heard that advice 30 times in the first months after Kristi’s diagnosis. I hated it. I didn’t want it to be true. It didn’t feel like a marathon. Several of my posts likened it to running the 400 meters, a brutally taxing sprint. Well meaning friends were telling us to pace ourselves. But that didn’t seem possible at the time.

Now that I’m familiar with running, I can say that her fifteen month battle was a sprint. Sprint’s demand all your energy from the opening gun to the finish line. I finished my second official 5K race two weeks ago. It is the sprint event of distance running. By the end of the first mile my lungs were screaming, by the time the finish line came into view at 3.1 miles I was spent.

Tomorrow morning I will toe the start line of the Austin Marathon. Its my first race at that distance. By mile 1 I will barely be warmed up. I expect to be fully loose and hitting my stride about mile 3. Miles 3-8 promise to be relatively easy. Then comes four to six miles of uphill that will put teeth into the course. At mile 14 the course flattens out and meanders to the 20 mile mark. That’s as far as I’ve run in training…and it hurt.

I managed to run 2-3 days per week on our trip, and let me tell you that was grand. Whether running the rolling hills outside Sydney, along the beaches of the Coral Sea, cruising the Southern Alps or busting through the native bush around Rotorua, I soaked up the atmosphere and reveled in the views. However I wasn’t able to get in as many long runs as I hoped and that hurt my preparation for tomorrow. Once I cross the 20.3 mile threshold I’ll be in virgin territory for a single run. I know getting to the finish will require grit and fortitude similar to the half-ironman triathlon race last October.

But you see the difference don’t you? The marathon eases you in, warms you up and then drops the hammer at the end. The sprint comes at you hard from the get go and never lets up. That’s what Kristi and I faced.

Nine hours from now I’ll finally get to experience what a full marathon is like. Look for an after action report. In the mean time your prayers for safety are appreciated. It’ll just be me, several friends from the Georgetown Triathletes club and 19,999 others moving through the streets of Austin.

Oh, and if you know someone going through cancer, keep your mouth shut about it being a marathon. Know that its requiring everything they’ve got to make it through each day. They’re in a sprint, no matter how long the battle. Take care of them accordingly.

18 + 57 Facts and Truth

Jun 5, 2012 1:29 AM
As we pass the 24 hour mark here at the hospital, I thought I’d lay out the current facts of the situation:
-Kristi has an infection that continues to keep her heart rate up, a low grade fever going and red areas persisting on her chest.
-She is receiving antibiotics via IV at regular intervals in an effort to knock the infection down. If she can be fever free for 24 hours she can go home.
-If the infection persists, we will have to make a decision on surgical removal of the tissue expanders that were put in during the original surgery on May 1st as part of the preliminary reconstruction process. The current thought process from the medical team is that the infection is likely a result of bacteria on the surface of those devices.
-If the expanders have to come out, Kristi will have to heal up again before she can continue her chemotherapy.
-As the hours click by, Kristi is resting comfortably but there is no change in the infection.

I made a fast trip to the house this morning to clean up and gather more gear for our longer than expected stay. While there I could feel myself starting to get amped up about this curve ball in her recovery and the looming decision about the expanders. Our Father gently reminded me to take a chill pill and walk in faith, not fear.

While praying with a friend this evening the Spirit brought to mind these truths:
-The wounds of Jesus provided for Kristi’s healing. Is 53:5
-Jesus finished his work and now sits at the right hand of the Father where he has opened access for us to the sanctuary, to the Father’s lap. Heb 10:12-24
-the Kingdom of heaven does not have any sickness or death in it. Jesus beat both in his resurrection power. Rev 21:4
-Kristi has been seated with Christ in the heavenly places having been given everything she needs for life and godliness. Eph 2:4-7
-Jesus himself is truth. John 14:6 He is truth with flesh on. He’s solid, personal and alive.

When Truth came face to face with the facts of death and disease guess which one did the about face? That’s right. In the presence of Truth, facts changed…lame muscles leapt with strength, mute tongues wagged, blinded eyes saw the light, withered hands blossomed to wholeness and a dead little girl filled her lungs with the breath of life. The facts of disease are transformed by the Truth of Life.

Jesus commanded us to continue his work, to train everyone to do what he did. Eph 2:10, Matt 28:18 He said we’d do greater things than He. John 14:12

I saw it happen first hand while in Romania in late February this year for a mission trip. My father prayed over a woman in her mid twenties who’s right leg was about one inch shorter than the other. During her breach birth, the doctor had pulled her leg out of socket and then cast it incorrectly for the first six months of her life. She had walked on the ball of her foot to avoid a limp ever since and routinely experienced significant pain during exercise. But before our very eyes we watched Truth transform her facts. Her legs became the same length, her hip was healed and at the end of the week she testified that she had no pain during exercise! Two weeks later while conversing via Facebook, she told me she had been able to run around outside after the snow had melted. She was so thrilled to have legs the same length, it made such a difference, “so amazing!” she exclaimed!

I made a video about Christina’s healing. Let me set the stage: My father and I spent a week training students at a YWAM base in Cluj, Romania. They were preparing to go on a mission trip and we provided instruction regarding spiritual warfare which we started off with prayer for healing. Truth was present and everyone’s lives were changed. Several students and staff received healing with Christina’s being the most dramatic.

That’s why I pray like I do and ask you to join me in praying for Kristi’s facts to be confronted with and conformed to Truth:
B-Gone, B-9, B-Healed
Click here for the Video.

18 + 1 The Call

Yesterday we’d been married 18 years plus 1 day (18+1) when we got the call no one wants to get. Yes Kristi has breast cancer. We don’t know any more than that. We go in today at 12:45PM, 18+2, to meet with the doctor and find out what’s next.

Thank you to the outpouring of support and love from our friends and family. We have meals organized through the weekend as far as I know from our neighbors.

I will post updates here as we know them.

Please join us in lifting up Kristi to our Father in prayer. We know He is a healer, we know he is good, we know he loves us and we plan to work with him to bring about every good thing in this situation. Faith is what we are standing on.