Sunday, August 20, 2017

A summer of "news"

    The past 3 months have been full of new things...
1) home
2) community
3) health challenges
4) schools
5) church
6) schedules
7) job for Jason
8) sports
9) grocery store
10) target 

Okay, the last 2 aren't a huge deal, but, still takes some getting used to.;)

A week after school ended in May we left our beloved Point Loma community. It was another week and a half until we could move into our new home in Bonsall, so we were vagabonds for a short time. Housed by friends and kind❤️. Around this time I had a scan and it revealed that my cancer was progressing on my liver, so I began Chemo.

Once we got settled into our home, which took quite awhile because I was fatigued from the chemo, we dove into our new surroundings...a new church, a new beach and the boys joined the Fallbrook swim team and water polo. These were sports both Jason and I did as youth and it's so fun to see them enjoying them now.
The 2 older kids began attending youth group, when we were in town, and began to connect. Our hope and prayer was that the Lord would provide a friend, so when they began their new schools in August it would ease the transition. 
The Lord, once again, went before us and chose the perfect teachers and friends for each of them. Of course, today is only day 3 of school but we already see how the Lord orchestrated these things! We are so grateful.
I had another scan in July and it showed that, even though I was doing iv chemo, the liver was getting worse. This has been very frustrating and I've really had to work through this with the Lord. (Probably why I haven blogged in awhile truthfully;) ) I stopped the chemo and 2 weeks ago I began yet another targeted therapy (supposedly blocking the cancer pathways). I will have another scan in September. I have not had many side effects from this new med duo, however, I did have to make a Sunday night ER visit a few weeks ago and found out I had pneumonia, due to my compromised immune system.  I'm on the mend, feeling much better, but still not 100%. Praising the Lord it was just pneumonia though, and not another issue from cancer!
Because it seems like I'm flying through treatment options, I decided in June to pursue a second opinion at City of Hope. I'm so thankful that I have this option and that after 2 1/2 months and countless hours back and forth with my insurance, it was FINALLY approved! Praise be to God. Only through his mercy did this happen. My appointment is this Wednesday. My sweet dad will be taking me up there and my kind mom will be holding down the fort because(takes a village!)....praise the Lord, Jason got a new job! Full time with benefits. 
That is a whole other story about God's timing and learning hard lessons on waiting and God's provision when it seems so stressful. 
This, by far, cancer diagnosis aside, has been the hardest, most stressful, uncertain summer of our lives. But, with it has come growth as a couple, as a family, lessons on waiting for God's timing when you literally have zero choice, and hope. Sweet hope. Where would we be with out HOPE? 
We are thankful that God allows us to experience Him in this way. He is our Hope. And we will look to Him because without Him there is no hope, in this life, or eternity. 

I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Acts 27:25

There is never a majestic mountain without a deep valley, and there is no birth without pain.
Daniel Crawford, streams in the desert

    High School-10th:)

    Middle School-6th!

    Our 3rd grader:)

    Kinder for this little!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Birthday Boy (the last preteen year)

Today, Jameson turns 12.

He is named after my Papa, James. Not the whiskey:). Jameson means son of Jameson. 
He has green eyes, the only one of our 4 without brown, taking after both of his light-eyed grandmas.
He is witty, loves to laugh and goof around.
He is friendly to all. Seeking out friends wherever we may move, vacation or visit.
He also has a tender heart and can pray in a heartfelt and honest way. 
He likes to have fun, a lot. He also loves to get his haircut and is enjoying creating his personal style...wouldn't expect less though, from this creative boy.
He is confident and takes the stage with poise, but can also shy away from things he doesn't feel like he can perfect.
He shoulders much with grace and expresses his fears openly so we can walk and process life's challenges together, while we have this privilege.
He is a sports fanatic, changing with each season. And when he plays on a team he is de-di-cated! 
In fact, he is not only a dedicated team player, but also, a loyal friend. 

I'm thankful God entrusted him to Jason and Me. He brings us joy, challenges us, makes our family complete, as do all our children. 

Happy 12th Birthday Jameson Wesley.❤️

My verse for you Jameson...
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Round one ✔️

The port procedure went smooth and I'm happy with the placement...not too noticeable. And even though i still won't admit I'm okay with having a foreign thing in my body, it did make chemo pretty seamless today.
Praying it does it's job.
Update on the trial. I'm not eligible to participate because it's for triple negative breast cancer, and I am not.
Looking into other back up plans. Butttt I'd rather this just have this drug work. AND keep my hair (please Lord let me be in the 70%) :)
Coveting your prayers for effect chemo and death to cancer!

Friday, May 5, 2017

New and unwelcomed news.

So, Wednesday's scan results weren't "good". But God is good. The scan results don't change that...let me just make that clear.
However, I'm gonna need to kick it up a notch on the fight on this uphill battle.
I've said it before and I'm saying it again...I won't go down easy! Planning on kicking some cancer-ass (yes, it's ok to cuss when it comes to cancer;). 
The scan showed the cancer in my stomach area that we had seen whenever I had surgeries where they put the internal camera inside, but never showed up on a scan....until this week. It's also increased its presence on my liver and also near or kind of on the small and large intestine.  I had been feeling a little discomfort this past week or so on my left side so I figured there was something going on. 
There were 3 treatment options on the table. I'm choosing to do the most immediate and drastic first, which is iv chemo, thru a port (boooooooo:( ). Supposedly only 30% of those on this chemo lose there hair and I reallllllly hope I'm in the other 70 percent. Been there done that. Plus, I feel like it's so much easier on the kids if I don't "look" sick. 
The second treatment is a trial drug that actually opens today, but in order to retrieve my old tumor, test it and do the paperwork, we are looking at a 15-20 day start day from now. I don't like the idea of the cancer getting to have its way until then, so I'm choosing this iv chemo (which will begin next week) and if it doesn't work I'll switch to the trial, once approved.
Praise be to God I have great peace amidst this storm. It does seem, of course, really poor timing as I'm suppose to start packing because we move at the end of this month, but will be starting chemo instead. Maybe I'll just give everything away to make it easier ;). 
This morning I woke up with Psalms 23:4 running thru my head

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

I'm learning what this really means! Finding true comfort as I walk this road through the valley, shadowed by death. If I just keep my eyes straight ahead, focused on Jesus, the shadows don't seem as threatening, and I can still walk through the valley and enjoy the good things that are along the way.

Please pray for Jason, the kids and our families, as they wear the heaviest burden of watching through this process. Pray for God's healing for my body. This is the God who separated the ocean, flooded the lands but spared Noah his family and 2 of every kind of animal, allowed a small boy to take down a giant with one stone, who created the heaven and earth, who kept himself on the cross for the love of us....I know HE CAN heal me. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Finding faith without feeling it

This morning's devotion in Streams was a sweet reminder for me. 

My righteous one will live by faith. Hebrews 10:38

In this plush, every-physical-need-met, land of plenty, first world country that we live in, it is so common to have "bad moods" because we feel upset or unjustly wronged. (Cue very very tiny violin)

Let me set the stage of my most recent pity party and expose my flawed state...

Monday, sick child-me, catering to his every need and thinking, "yeah! I get to stay home allll day today"
Tuesday, sick child again-cancel my hair appointment, start fretting that the others will catch it and have to stay home too.
Wednesday, sick teen-cancel my massage, but because it's later than 24 hr notice I may still have to pay (grrrrrr :/ ). Fretting that she will still be sick for the opening of the school play and that the other 2 healthy ones will get sick too. 

It's official....I'm grumpy.
Hard to smile.
Very little joy, even though I try to pep talk myself into thinking "this too shall pass".
I'm a freakin' brat.

I finally recovered, thank you Jesus, apologized to my mom for being a storm cloud (because I had seen her in my state-o-glory) and thanked Jesus that my kids had the flu, not a terminal illness. I bratty.

I share this ridiculous, but true, scenario as proof of how we use our feelings as a faith gage-r.

I think I've shared before, that when I got word, back in late May of 2014, that my cancer was back and now considered stage 4 metastatic, that I experienced a dry season. I was literally on my face crying out to the Lord and nothing -------radio silence---------.
I "felt" nothing. I couldn't understand why He would desert me now? Why was He not comforting me? It was a hard, but real lesson that I have carried with me and has gently nudged me out of those seemingly dry times. 

"Lord, you are here. And though the bush before me does not seem to burn, it does burn. I will take the shoes from my feet, 'for the place where [I am] standing is holy ground." London Christian (as quoted in Streams)

It goes back to what I know about God and His unchanging character & Word. He said He will be there. He will be there.

Trust God's Word and His power more than you trust your own feelings and experiences. Remember, you Rock is Christ, and it is the sea that ebbs and flows with the tides, not Him. Samuel Rutherford (Streams in the Desert)

Bottom line, when the waves get rough, or even a little choppy, is it better to cling to that little dingy we brought with us because it's what we know? Or, shall we climb onto & cling to the Rock, the one that crashing waves cannot move and that's stood the test of time? 

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear [nor be afraid of them]; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 nkjv

Thank you Lord that my feelings, always changing and often misplaced or inaccurate, are not all You left me with. 
May you find your faith in His steadfast Word and not be swayed by the every changing feelings!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Still and here

Wow! I didn't realize it's been close to 3 months since I last blogged! Shame. On. Me.
No excuse. Except perhaps that I have so much going on in my head & soul that I often get overwhelmed thinking about blogging it and wondering if instead of a blog entry, it may turn into a book chapter.....hmmmm, that's an idea. 
I digress. 
Ok, bottom lines first...then I'll unpack what God has been doing and how He has been moving in unexpected, fresh and gloriously gracious ways in the Neese household this 2017, since it has been since last year that I've shared:/. (Oops)

1. Had a scan. Disease progression...9 new spots on my liver.
2. Starting oral chemo again tomorrow! (Yeah! Let's do this!)
3. Moving to the northern most tip of San Diego County, a peaceful, rolling hill, growing stuff, kinda little town, by the name of Bonsall, after school gets out.
4. Attending a new church

2017 met us with lots of uncertainty. Jason's time at The Rock Church had come to an end. We were praying and searching for what the Lord had for us next. Stay in SD? Go? 
And as you would expect, each decision we make is closely followed by the question of my healthcare and how any changes may affect my care. 
We thought He was moving us one way, and then it seemed He wasn't. We took a week or two to just. Be. Still. 
(Deep, cleansing breathe sigh here)
This stillness and rest was exactly where we needed to be. I often see my life in themes, or chapter titles. This season, or chapter seems to be titled, "being still and resting in Him". 
It's as though Jesus lifted a cloth, and revealed what He had next for wasn't hard, or confusing and really, once we stopped and just rested in Him, it was revealed. 

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and overburdened, and I will cause you rest. (I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls)
Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. [jer.6:16]
Matthew 11:28-29 ampc

This time, of new jobs, new school, new church and new community, could very well be scary and intimidating if our eyes were not on the One who led us here. 
Jason and I both feel that this time is such a gift. A season of rest and newness. 
Unexpected Adventure. 
While we love our school community and neighborhood, we know that our time here has come to an end and to try to stay would be to miss blessings and growth that the Lord has for each of us! My parents are graciously letting us live on some property they have and we have found a new community we know we will soon love. 

As for my sneaky cancer, amazingly some previous spots have shrunk or stayed the same. But there are 9 new spots on my liver. Grrrrrrr. The liver cannot be operated on to remove the spots (one of my first questions :) and one needs their liver to survive, sooo I've opted to move from my targeted therapy to an oral chemo drug that I was on previously, that seemed to work on my cancer. However, I went off this oral chemo after my heart episode. I am not convinced that the heart episode in January 2016 was related to the oral chemo not working, but rather the radiation I was undergoing at the time. So, my oncologist is allowing me to give it another run. We will watch my heart closely and have a scan in 2 months to see if I'm getting the desired results on those spots on my liver (aka kicking it's butt).
Specifically praying....heal the liver!:) please join me!!
Other than that I've been feeling so "normal!" 
We enjoyed a ski trip with friends to Tahoe, thanks to their generosity ;).
We celebrated Bellen's 6th birthday. (Something I wasn't convinced I'd see when I was diagnosed before she even had her first birthday) praise be to God!
And Jason and I enjoyed our first trip to Seattle, to celebrate my 42nd birthday, traveling with friends.

We are attending a new church. Even this has been a new experience because we have always attend where Jason was employed. It's a new season of rest, even in this. 
Today's message was especially soul filling, reinforcing the season of rest that the Lord has begun to show us even this past month or so. You know when you read a Devo or hear a message and think,"thank you Lord, I know this was your divine plan that I hear this word, right now!"
That was today. And practically ever devotion I've read this pas month in Streams in the Desert! A girlfriend and I joke almost daily after reading Streams, that, yep, God wrote that just for me!
My heart is full of joyful gratitude. God is walking this journey close, so close with me. So many gifts and sweet personal blessings.

Oh friend, how I hope you feel Him in your every day. Rest in Him. He loves you. He has the perfect plan for your life. And He is with you, every step of the way. May your soul find rest in Him.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalms 100:4 nkjv

*seattle photo creds: sarah mortimore

Gratitude exclaims, very properly, "how good of God to give me this" ~C.S.Lewis

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