Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Famous Quotes

Not only has my life been crazy, but my computer went ka-pooey. Since my husband's computer is attached at the hip, it is very difficult to get any time to post a blog. At this moment, I have procured said husband's computer and am attempting to write a quick post before he awakens from his wife-induced coma and comes after me.

Well, I'm sure you don't need a play by play of the craziness that is called my life. Therefore, I will keep it simple by just saying that we have been keeping all the doctors and vets in business here in Minnesota, what with my daughter's breaking of the arm and my doggy's siezuring of the body.

The main thing I thought I would share with you, in list form (because lists are my friends), are some of the things my daughter has been sharing with us. Some of them have made me bust a gut and some have made me cringe, but here is a sample of what we experience every hour of every day.

Allika: Can I please have cheese instead of grapes for a snack?

Daddy: No, Allika. If you want a snack, you can have grapes.

Allika: But, Daddy, I'm not hungry for grapes. I'm hungry for cheese.

Daddy: Allika. The answer is no. You may have grapes, and that's all.

Allika: Well, what would Jesus say if he were my daddy?


Nurse: Do you say your name "A-lec-uh" or "A-leek-uh"?

Allika: It's up to you what you want to call me. Either one is fine. Or

you can call me "A-kill-i-kuh" too if you want to.


Doctor: Hi. So you broke your arm, huh?

Allika: (Reading nametag) Is your name, Joe?

Doctor: (Chuckling) Yes, it is.

Allika: Well, my name is Allika and I'm smart.


Allika: Sometimes, people don't believe me when I tell them things.

Receptionist: Really? They don't?

Allika: Yeah. Like when I tell them I ate sand, they don't believe me.

But I have ate sand before. It tasted like candy, too.


Allika: This is the same hospital my sister was born in.

Nurse: Really?

Allika: Yeah, but she died.

Nurse: Oh dear. Where is she now?

Allika: She's in heaven.

Nurse: That's right. She's in a better place.

Allika: Yeah. And she's also buried at the cemetery.

Nurse: Do you get to go see her at the cemetery a lot.

Allika: Well, it's not close to our house. But when I grow up and I have

a daughter and she dies, I'm going to bury her close to my house.

Nurse: Oh. That's nice.


What can I say? Life is always exciting with a six-year-old.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Just a quick post to let you all know I haven't forgotten about you. I'm just trying to figure out how to transition from being about cancer to being about other things.

I contemplated quitting my blog since I don't have cancer anymore, but, as my profile states, this is a blog about my spiritual journey which is more than just having cancer. Believe it or not, it is kind of difficult switching gears. I guess this is my attempt at going about it.

So, for those of you who were just following for cancer updates, I am moving on from those to post about other things I am learning in this exciting adventure I am on. I have appreciated your being along on this journey up until now. You have been so invaluable to me in dealing with everything. Writing was so good for me in processing all my thoughts and emotions. Having someone there to read what I wrote made me feel like there might be some significance to this whole thing after all.

I would love to have each of you continue to join me and leave all your lovely comments. If you do not wish to do so, I have enjoyed having you along thus far.

Here's to a cancer-free blog.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Breathing is Good

It's over, and this fat lady is singing ever so loudly.

The doctor called today with the test results. After a summer full of biopsies (2), surgeries (2), recovery, low-iodine diet, radiation, lab work, medications, body scans, and more, the cancer has not spread, and I am officially cancer-free.

I almost feel like I made it up that the doctor said the cancer had most likely spread, and I would probably have to have more procedures done. That all sounds so impossible and silly now. But I did not make it up. I know for a fact that is what I heard.

God is so good to me.

I had already decided that he is good no matter what. Even if the results weren't what I wanted (which I was prepared for) it would not have changed his goodness.

I know there were so many praying. People I didn't even know would write me and tell me they were praying for me. Whole churches and camps were praying for me. You can never imagine what all of you have meant to me. Thanks for the cards, calls, comments, and prayers. People would ask me what they could do for me. All I ever wanted was prayer. I could never have done this on my own. A thousand times never.

Getting the news kind of felt a little anti-climactic, like it was just another day. It's not just another day though; It is the first day of the rest of my life. I told Van I felt like we needed to shoot off fireworks or something. We laughed, knowing that we would have to find a way to celebrate without fireworks.

We went for a long, brisk walk after dark. It felt so good. When we got home, we all went to go get ice cream and a movie.

As we were driving home, we happened to look over, and much to our surprise, there was a fireworks show. Right down the street!! We knew they were for us. I guess we got our fireworks after all.

My Aunt Mary kept telling me not to forget to breathe. Now I know what she meant. I have been holding my breath for three months without realizing it. I suppose I went into autopilot mode and did what I had to do to keep my head above the water. I never read up on what things meant. If I had read what it really could mean, I would have been a basket case. I didn't even ask the doctors too many questions. I just took what they said and tried to believe the best about it. I didn't want to think too deeply about the possibilities. I know there are some who want to know all the ins and outs and ups and downs of their diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis, but not me. Call it denial. Call it laziness. Call it survival.

Whatever you call it, it's over now. I can breathe again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saint Van

Today was my first day out of isolation. This morning Allika said, "Momma gets to act normal today."

So many things I could say about that.

I wish I had taken a picture of my little radioactive corner. Once I touched something, it became radioactive and couldn't leave the area I was in, so I was rapidly being taken over by dishes, laundry, trash, etc. It was good to get it all out of here today.

Allika came home Sunday night. We still had 3 days of "limited contact." She did really well, considering, but didn't like it one bit.

Our little doggy couldn't understand what was going on, either. We had to keep her in Allika's room because she would come straight to me if she was allowed out. It made it worse for her the nights that Allika was gone. She is happily stretched out beside me right now as I type.

Poor Van. Bless his heart. He had to do everything. It was hard for me to watch him running around like a chicken with its head cut off while I was perfectly capable of helping but couldn't. He got so stressed out. He had to take care of his normal duties plus cook, clean, take care of Allika and the dog, run errands, etc. I remember one time when he made breakfast, served me, fed Allika and got her ready for the day, started her schoolwork while he did dishes and cleaned up, worked with her until she was done, immediately started cooking lunch, fed me and her, didn't even have time to eat because he had to make some time-sensitive calls, cleaned up after lunch, and had to take care of other responsibilities with his job while trying to keep Allika occupied and away from me. The whole time, I'm just sitting in my corner reading a book.

Someday I will make a confession about the awful way I added to his stress by insisting he butter my toast as soon as it comes out of the toaster instead of waiting until it got cold.

I know. Ridiculous. It was not one of my proudest moments.

I did get rather cross sometimes sitting there, doing nothing. No excuses. Just keepin' it real here.

I got quite a bit of my booklist read. Do you know what that means? Lots of material floating around in my brain that has to go somewhere. And what better place than here with all of you, my lovely friends?

Van laughs when I read a book. It's probably a good thing I don't read more than I do. I have to share every profound thing I read with him. When I finish a book, I exclaim profusely over its goodness and insist that he read it, as well. This is because the book is making inroads into my thought processes and I want us to discuss these things and be on the same page together. It's relational. I do the same thing with my food.

"You've got to try this!!"

"I don't want to."

"Please just take a bite?"

"Tani, I'm fine with what I ordered."

"But you don't know what you're missing. It would mean so much to me if you would just try it."

He usually relents. Then, much to his chagrin, I like to try his, too.

Life is all about sharing and experiencing things together.

Raise your hand if you think Van's a saint.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seize the Day

Time to share another song with you, My Dearies. I process so many of my experiences through music, writing, and reading; naturally, therefore, they will go hand in hand on my blog.

This song has been one of my favorites since I was a teenager. It makes me smile every time I hear it. I like to imagine that I am so living out this song, but realistically, I have a long way to go.

Isn't she just the cutest thing with her chipmunk cheeks and twinkly eyes? I love the part where she plays air guitar.

Does anyone mind if I try to get a little philosophical here? Keeping in mind that sometimes I really don't know what I'm talking about when I think that I do.

Okay. Thank you.

*Clearing throat*

Haven't we all heard some variation of the cliche, "Seize the day"?

"Carpe diem." (That's for those who can't just say "seize the day" in their own native tongue but think saying it in Latin, or maybe it's French, makes them sound cooler.)

"Pursue your dreams."

"Reach for the stars."

"Become all you were meant to be."

"Don't sell yourself short."

Yada, yada, yada. (Interestingly, this phrase can mean many different things, "seize the day" being only one of them.)

Anyhow, we hear the mandate from so many different sources. It's volume is as if a stadium is full of spectators, shouting in unison as we play the game of life, "Seize the day! Seize the day! Seize the day! Seize the day!"

And we get all inspired.

And we sit there, responding cheerfully, "Okay...umm...okay...ummm...sure."

But we really aren't sure...of how to do it or where to begin.

It's as if the day never quite wanted to be seized in the first place.

Before we know it, we've lived a good portion of our life without a legacy to show for it, and we wonder what happened to our inspiration and determination.

When did we deviate from the path of noble pursuits and life-changing actions to one of frantically trying to get as much as possible for ourselves so we can...what? Be comfortable? How boring. Run from our mission? How purposeless. Fit in? How shallow. Leave something for our kids? How crippling.

My advice? Make a difference, not a fortune.

If your fortune is your difference, it certainly can't be that way by keeping it all to yourself. Furthermore, how can it be your legacy if you sold your soul (or your identity) in the process of obtaining it?

So, my point is, everyone needs to send me all of their money.

All kidding aside...(okay, some)I thought since I have everything figured out, I would share with you some practical steps to the seizing of the day.

Step One (1): Ask your creator and designer what it was you were created and designed for. I know it would have been nice if he would have just told you from the beginning and then, we wouldn't have had to make any of these mistakes and such. However, since he did try to tell us from the beginning and we went ahead and made the mistakes and such anyway, let's go back to square one and ask him to go over that part again with us. Here is a good question you could ask: "What do you want to do with me? How do you want to use me? Would you please show me? And if you have to knock me upside the head, would you please do that?" Okay, that was four questions, but work with me here.

I promise. I PROMISE! I SO VERY MUCH IN EVERY WAY PROMISE! that he will answer that question. If he never does another thing in your life, he WILL answer that question.

Step Two (2): Start sensing the burden(s) on your heart. The answer will come in the form of a very real burden. It will not just be a "swoosh" through your sub-conscious. It will be something very tangible that you feel inside yourself for someone or something. It could be something very small, like cleaning the flea-infested toilet at your neighbor's house (although I would classify that as huge). It could be something big, like building an orphanage for all the war orphans in post-war Liberia. Or maybe you just feel a real burden to scratch you nose. Chances are, you will start small, and once you've proven yourself faithful in the small things, he will give you bigger missions.

Step Three (3): Go do it. Don't let lack of results, others' criticism, your own insecurities, etc. stand in your way. Just do it for no other reason than it was a burden you sensed on your heart after you asked him to show you.

If you don't do it, he will keep getting louder and louder and putting more and more indications out there that this is what you should do.

Now, sometimes there are processes involved. Take said orphanage, for example. You can feel the burden and know it is something for you to do, but you may not be able to just hop on the next plane. There may be finances to raise, skills to learn, current missions to complete, etc. In spite of these, however, you begin to take steps to reach your goal, all along seeking his guidance because...

Lo and behold! Sometimes he changes the mission on you. He leads you down one path because that path will lead to this turn, and that turn will lead to a bend in the road, and before you know it, you're going in a completely different direction.

It's just one of the many surprises and mysteries along the way. It can get a little iffy at times, but, more than anything, it's rather exciting and adventurous.

Now, I won't reveal any more of the secrets. You'll just have to venture out on your own to learn them yourself.

One note of caution: If you have to sell your children into prostitution to realize God's plan for your life, it was probably your own plan for your life. I know that's a bit of a hyperbolic example, but I'm just sayin'. Work within the system, People. Work. Within. The. System. (WWTS)

There. I am done waxing philosophical. Hope you enjoyed my little exhortation.

Please stand as we sing our closing song.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I should have brought my camera. But I'm not a camera-type person, and so, I didn't remember to. It really was a very unique experience, though, that no one can visualize without seeing it.

When you walk into the room, you feel like you are going into a danger zone or something: blue pads taped to the whole floor; saran wrap on the toilet seat, faucets, phone, remote, bed, chair, etc.; lead shields to keep radiation from entering the adjoining rooms; a sign that reads, "no visitors beyond this point"; red bins with orange "radioactive" signs; warning signs on the door and elsewhere.

So much fanfare for a gray horse-pill that they brought to me in this vault-like container. They had to open a compartment to open another compartment to open yet another compartment to get to the pill.

After swallowing it, they had to take measurements of me and the area all around my room to test the levels of radiation. I didn't feel at all different. I was just sitting there, so benign and innocent, yet so dangerous and infectious.

They said I might experience nausea, dry mouth, and pain at the cancer site, but I didn't experience any of it. I really felt very good. The most traumatic part of the whole thing was being isolated. It was so hard to just have to lay there and read a book and have people cook for me and wait on me and fuss over me. Very traumatic.

I think the hospital staff was a little confused. Everyone kept telling me something different.

"Don't use anything you don't want to leave here."

"You can use it, just wear gloves."

"You don't have to wear gloves as long as no one else will be touching it after you."

Some nurses would use a separate stethoscope from their own, while others would use their own. Some nurses would completely suit up, while others would just wear gloves. Some would come in, announcing that they couldn't get close and hurriedly do what they had to do and leave. Others would come in and stand by me for five minutes. One nurse kept checking my input and output. The rest didn't care how many times I went to the bathroom or ate. One nurse didn't even wear gloves and said he only had to if he was handling bodily fluids.

I don't know what to make of all that. Just relating the facts. No one seemed to know what the protocol was.

I was only in the hospital for 24 hours. My numbers were better than the acceptable level the next day. The guy measuring my levels said, "Your surgeon did a really good job removing all the thyroid. It's a very precise surgery and difficult to get everything without hitting nerves, vocal chords, or parathyroids."

"I know. I had a wonderful surgeon," I said.

This is a theme I keep hearing from the different doctors I see: "Your surgeon did a wonderful job."

So, I am home now. I still have to stay 6 feet away from everyone. Children are most susceptible to the radiation. Allika went to stay with her cousin for a few days. She was having a little trouble remembering to keep her distance. She was very upset that she couldn't hug me. That was hard for me because she was crying and saying that it made her feel bad not to be able to hug me. So, she went and got me a rose. It was her own idea, and she picked it out all by herself, announcing to everyone that her mother had cancer and she couldn't be close to her. She is such a sweetie-pie.

The next thing we will have to do is a body scan on Thursday to see if the iodine only went to the neck or if it went anywhere else. If it went anywhere else, that's where the cancer spread.

I get to have a new experience on Wednesday that I've never had before (hence, the newness of it). I get to take a laxative in preparation for my body scan.

I love new experiences.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I don't really feel like posting a long update, but I will say that all is well. In fact, things are better than expected. Sometimes, I get tired of talking about me and my health, though.

I promise I will update you soon, but in the meantime, I hope you will allow me to simply share this excerpt from my reading today.

Jesus hath many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He hath many seekers of comfort, but few of tribulation. He findeth many companions of His table, but few of His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to undergo anything for His sake. Many follow Jesus that they may eat of His loaves, but few that they may drink of the cup of His passion.

Many are astonished at His Miracles, few follow after the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus so long as no adversities happen to them. Many praise Him and bless Him, so long as they receive any comforts from Him. But if Jesus hide Himself and withdraw from them a little while, they fall either into complaining or into too great dejection of mind.

But they who love Jesus for Jesus' sake, and not for any consolation of their own, bless Him in all tribulation and anguish of heart as in the highest consolation. And if He should never give them consolation, nevertheless they would always praise Him and always give Him thanks.
Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

This reminds me of something my husband has said: "Do we love the gift more than we love the giver of the gift?"

My happiness comes from the gifts; my joy comes from knowing and loving the giver of those gifts.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Book List

I love to read. Lately, however, I haven't had time to read anything. Well, except for textbooks.
So, my plan is to read several books while I am quarantined from the rest of humanity.

My book list is as follows:

Henri Nouwen: His Life and Vision by Michael O'Laughlin (It has pictures, too)

When Invisible Children Sing by Dr. Chi Huang

Broken Children, Grown-Up Pain by Paul Hegstrom, Ph.D.

Surrender: The Heart God Controls by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

A Mother's Grief Observed by Rebecca Faber

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne

The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

My husband is also planning on downloading some of my favorite tunes (I feel so cool using that word instead of "songs" or "music") for my listening pleasure. Plus I have rented a few movies to watch, so we should be all set for this here shin dig.

I don't know if I will be able to post while I'm in the hospital because they say radiation comes out of my fingers onto the keys of my computer and will render it unusable for a week. I'm the bionic woman.

Anyway, we will see. It could be a day or a week until I visit with you again, my dear friends. I understand those words will put some of you into major depression and withdrawals, and I apologize for that.

Until next time, squeezes and smooches.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

God is in Control

What a great day! Besides running out of gas on the way home from the doctor's office, it has been so good. Even that was a blessing in disguise, but I'll expound more on that later.

Everything is a go. My iodine levels are better than perfect. The doctor was looking for 100 or less, and they are 44. Woo hoo!

The next thing I'm about to tell you is medical terminology that I really don't understand very well, so I am probably over-simplifying it, mis-spelling it, and otherwise, getting it wrong. C'mon people, my degree is in philosophy, not medicine.

Thyroglobin or globulin or goblins are typically, under normal circumstances, supposed to be at 40. We, however, want that number to be really low for the radioactive iodine because we don't want very much thyroid tissue (thyroid tissue equals cancer) to have to absorb the radiation. The less tissue the more absorption of radiation by the tissue, leading to the more killing of the cancer cells.

Well, my number is at 1.4!!! That is such good news. It means that my wonderful, amazing, awesome, God-sent surgeon did a marvelous job of removing most of the cancerous thyroid tissue. I'm telling you people, I couldn't have picked a better doctor to do my surgeries if I had been in control of the situation myself. I even contemplated switching doctors because the one I had was fresh out of training and didn't have as much experience. I believe he had done 13 of these surgeries apart from his internships and college training, which would add several more to that number.

I chose not to switch because I realized that my trust was not in doctors but in the God who worked through the doctors. I could have the most highly trained surgeon on the planet, and, if God so chose, my surgery could be botched. On the other hand, I could have the surgeon with the worst skills, and if it was within God's will and timing, all would go smoothly.

I know this is a hard concept for some to grasp (it was for me once, too), but I believe it with all my heart.

I do believe my doctor will go far in his career and be a great name in his field someday. He has all the makings of a top-notch doctor. I can't believe how humble he is about the spectacular work he did. He said it was just something he liked to do. Not a big deal.

Well, it's a big deal to me. Thanks, Doc!

I love my doctors, and I love my God, who brought them into my life.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Control is an Illusion

Well, tomorrow I go to get my first THS shot. I am not really even sure what it does, but it takes the place of going off my thyroid medication for 3 weeks. I do have to go off my medication for a little while but nothing compared to what it would have been without the shots.

There was a big fiasco over the testing of my iodine levels, and I won't know whether they are low enough or not until tomorrow morning when I go in for the shot. The doctor said that if they weren't low enough, he can increase the THS dosage to make up for it. It makes me kind of nervous wondering whether everything is going to be okay, but I am learning not to fret so much about things.

I had to remind myself of that perspective on Friday at 4:00 PM when I started stressing out about whether I would be able to have my treatment this week or not. I was not the most pleasant patient while trying to get everything straightened out with the receptionist. Bless her heart. I felt really bad after hanging up, but I had taken the time off of work and juggled my schedule all around to prepare for this week, so life just has to go the way I want it to.

Reality check. It doesn't.

Perspective check. It's okay.

Bottom line. If things aren't a go for this week, there is a reason. Life will go on. Whatever happens will happen. If I lose my job for taking too much time off, I was supposed to lose my job for some reason. God is in control.

Why do I get so worked up about things beyond my control? It is a good lesson to learn. I am learning it the hard way.

Incidentally, the lady I was talking to at the doctor's office was so nice. She was so patient and understanding with me. When she called back with some new info, I was apologetic and mentioned that I was just getting a little bit nervous. She understood. I was impressed.

*Sigh* It's nice to have someone get it.

Friday, September 4, 2009


This is something I have on my desk (along with papers and books piled three feet high). Although I don't believe it's an exhaustive list, I like what it says and want to share it with you.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

If I Could Smack Cancer in the Face...

They say that an iodine deficiency affects your intellectual capabilities, so I am taking that one and running with it. I have already attempted three different posts and can't seem to get the words I write to say what I am thinking. I start out just fine, but once I get going, I start making no sense. At least I have an excuse now.

They also say that thyroid cancer patients report feelings of exhaustion 50% (I think but I could just be making that up due to my iodine deficiency) more than other cancer patients. I can believe that, but maybe I'm just feeling worn out for other reasons.

Like the swollen lymph node on the left side of my neck that hurts every time I laugh. Is it something from the surgery? Is it all the infection that would have otherwise gone to the now non-existent lymph nodes on the right side of my neck? Or is it more cancer? These are some of the pleasant thoughts I think.

I had to do a 24-hour urine collection yesterday at the same time that I was potty-training two-year-old twins. I will spare you some of the more unpleasant details, but it involves a little hat you have to put on the toilet and a little jug you have to put in the refrigerator. The fact that I had to do it during a 10-hour work day was all due to a mis-communication between the lab tech and my nurse. Today, it is nice to be able to go to the bathroom in the simple manner to which I am accustomed. It is interesting to learn all the things we take for granted. So, go enjoy your bathroom today (and hug your kids, too).

I have lost 30 lbs. and still counting. That doesn't get me close to where I need to be, but it gives me a start.

Now that I have unloaded all the negative news on you poor, innocent, unsuspecting readers, I have some good news to share.

I took my friend to the doctor the other day. She had a third of her lung removed one-and-a-half weeks ago due to cancer. They said she would be out of commission for a good 6 weeks, and in the nursing home for at least 3-4 weeks after surgery.

Well, she was in the hospital for one week and the nursing home for four days. The doctor sent her home the day I took her in to see him.

It was such a privilege to be with her when she received the news that she was going home and to watch her float about 6 feet off the ground. She was crying and so excited that she made me start crying, as well.

God is so good. She believes it to be a miracle that she is doing so well so soon. We've certainly all been praying for her.

It's been kind of an interesting set of circumstances surrounding me and her. We attend church together, and she found out she had lung cancer only a short time after I found out that I had cancer. We have kind of been in this thing together. She gives me permission to be real and helps me realize how much worse things could be.

I am so thankful for the blessing she is to me, and just wanted to share the good news about her recovery.