Saturday, February 8, 2014

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. . .
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly . . . Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil 4:6-13
On January 30, 2014, I had my first CT scan since starting the clinical trial in December. Besides feeling somewhat tired and dealing with my continuous cough, I anxiously awaited the report. Friday morning my doctor called me with the results: “It is a very controversial CT scan! There is significant shrinkage in all the old liver and lung lesions but” . . . and then the words that I did not want to hear—“there are many new lesions in your lungs which put you out of the clinical trial.”  The protocol says that IF there is any new growth . . . My head was swimming as I tried to concentrate on everything else she was saying. She felt the CT scan was too soon and she was going to the board . . . “Don’t come back until you hear from me!”

On the drive home I forced my brain to stay in the positive—God has worked SO many miracles in my behalf! A place to stay, travel expenses covered and wonderful friends and family to take me back and forth to Winston Salem. The Bible story of the Children of Israel kept coming to my mind with their murmuring and complaining every time they hit a rough spot even though God had worked so many miracles for their nation. “Oh Lord,” my heart cried out, “Please help me to TRUST even though I don’t understand!”

I am SO human but I believe God put my tears into His bottle” (Ps 56:8) that I cried at night into my pillow as I begged Him for the strength to trust and stay positive. . .

The Bible teaches,

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.  James 5:14-18

On November 21, 2013, when I was first diagnosed, my church anointed me according to this promise—I believe there are three kinds of healing: Spiritual, emotion and physical. The healings that I have experience since that day has been phenomenal. On Saturday, February 1, 2014, after my negative CT results, my pastor again suggested that my church anoint me. It was a special experience and really helped me totally put my life in God’s hands.

Tuesday morning I got the call of the miracle I had SO prayed for. My doctor had gone to the board, and they agreed to rewrite their government protocol so that I could continue the clinical trial! What can I say?

I am a mere, insignificant human being, but yet God, the Creator of the Universe, intervened in my behalf—

Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. Jeremiah 32:17


Again I am reminded of the words of Jesus—

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life . . .” for even “the very hairs of your (MY) head are numbered!” Matthew 6:25 &10:30


Monday, January 20, 2014

December was in some ways a hard month for me but in other ways I have felt a sense of peace because I know God was and is leading in my life! On December  3rd, when I was accepted into the clinical trial for Cholangiocarcinoma it was a ray of light, a glimmer of hope; but oh, so many problems! As I sat in the hotel room the evening before with my sister-in-law, and we talked about the practicality it all seemed so overwhelming. But yet when I opened my Bible I was reminded how many times I have felt this way over the last year, and how many times has God literally opened the Red Sea for me—What a miracle that I am even alive. But there were problems that seemed insurmountable by all human prospective, and I don’t want to just bury my head in the sand. How was I suppose to be in Winston Salem every Monday and Thursday, three weeks out of four? I couldn’t travel alone, the expense of gas and hotel. . .It all just seemed to much to take it but yet it was a ray of light, it was hope—I was fighting for my life. Several days later when I was reading my Bible I cam across this promise:

O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established;
Isaiah 54:11-14

What a beautiful promise! Especially that my “children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your (MY) children.” Those of you who know me best, know that my children are my life and their relationship with God is the most important thing in the world to me.

Last week with  my checking account funds dwindling, I started out for Winston Salem trusting God but not sure of all the particulars. The SECU House is a very warm, caring facility that is connected with the Hospital and charges $35/night. This is where I had been staying until last Sunday when I got a call from a dear friend—Nita told me that since her Mom died last August her home, which is fifteen minutes from Wake Forest Baptist Hospital where I am getting my treatment, is sitting empty. I know God cares that I felt “tossed with tempest” and He provided a place for me.

Through the American Cancer Society, I found out about the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, which reimburses for all travel expenses for patients involved in a clinical trial. I submitted my application and am waiting for it to be processed.

How great is MY God!
It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
Isaiah 65:24

Cancer is not what I would have in anyway expected for my life; but that being said, I see God leading in my life. As I have told my children so many times, EVERYTHING in this world is sandcastles soon to be washed away by the incoming tide—God is the only reality, the only anchor that will with stand the tempest. . .

I pray that I will always remember this fact! 

This week my sister-in-law gave me the book she had made from my one year Celebration of Life on November 15, 2013. I was so touched by the wonderful pictures of the special people in my life who came and the many inspiring notes that were left for me. I have felt so empowered by the love, prayers and support that has been poured out upon me since my diagnosis. I love the words to this song and to each one of you, my awesome family and dear friends, may you know how special you are to me and this is my song to you . . .

Did you ever know that you're my hero
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle
For you are the wind beneath my wings

It might have appeared to go unnoticed
But I've got it all here in my heart
I want you to know, I know the truth, of course, I know it
I would be nothing without you

Did you ever know that you're my hero?
You're everything I wish I could be
I could fly higher than an eagle
For you are the wind beneath my wings.
Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley

Saturday, January 4, 2014

 All Is Well

When my kids were little we had a Christmas book that was very special to us. All is Well is the story of a little girl and her mother who were struggling for survival after a divorce, with little to no means for support. The Mom was out of work and Jenny, the little girl, decided to try to raise money by selling “stuff.” She hunted around the house for anything she thought might be valuable. She then loaded her wagon and went around to all the neighbors trying to sell her wares. Unfortunately at the end of the day she realized that a very special Christmas ornament had some how gotten mixed in with her stuff and sold. Jenny became frantic and began retracing her steps, because somehow she felt she and her mother had forgotten the true meaning of the ornament. She believed in order to regain that sense of balance in their lives, she had to have the ornament to remember. After frantically searching, and each neighbor telling her how they had had the ornament but passed it on to another neighbor, she finally found it.  Filled with relief she hurried home, and later realized the neighbors had been passing it around to raise money for her and her mother. That evening as her mother looked at the ornament she was able to remember . . .

Here is my favorite exert from All is Well:

And she’ll tell Jenny once again that God is the Grand Storyteller of our lives. She’ll tell her that, in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago, God wrote Himself into history. Now He walks with us in the mist of the story, and He’ll stay with us until that story is completed His way, in His time, for His glory (Frank Peretti).

It’s just a children’s story, yet the meaning is SO deep that as adults IF we could ALWAYS remember—Jesus wrote Himself into our story . . .

Each of us have a different story, different heartaches and different joys—As I contemplate the true meaning of Christmas . . .

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
                                                                                                Luke 2:4-7

Jesus wrote Himself into my story, yet there was no room for Him, no one had room for Him except in a smelly stable after He gave up Heaven for me . . .

And the life He lived . . .

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.       
Isaiah 53

Being diagnosed with cancer was definitely not the plan I had for my life. I was SO excited as CT after CT showed my tumors shrinking—I was going to be able to get my life back on track. Finish school, be a nurse practitioner . . . Suddenly it was back; the fatigue, the cough, the weight loss, that wrenching feeling that I had to face chemo again, that my life was out of control and that maybe I was going to die. . .

Those were hard, dark days as I struggled with all the human feelings of having my life ripped away from me again and feeling completely out of control. I was following all the holistic measures I believed in, but it was not enough—Why God?

As I begin this New Year, I feel extremely blessed to be a part of a clinical trial that so far has had wonderful success with lung cancer and leukemia. It is a relatively new drug, CPI-613 has been shown to disrupt the mitochondrial metabolism of the tumors and stop the growth of cancer by blocking blood flow. ( It is considered a target therapy since it targets just the cancer cells. With this clinical trial though are many obstacles. Winston Salem is 370 miles from my home, which is too far to go and come each time, and complicated by the fact that I have to be there every Monday and Thursday, three weeks out of four. Traveling is tiring, and it is hard to be away from home more than I am here. It is hard to leave my family, my support, and my pets, but yet I am so thankful for this chance to have hope. My mother is 89 years old and failing, so she forgets where I am and when I am coming home—she is struggling with me being gone so much. God is so good though, and my sweet niece, Margie, decided to take a leave of absence from work for three months to come and take care of her Grandma. On Wednesday, January 29th I will have another CT scan to see how my cancer is responding to the treatment.

As I look at my life, my plans, my hopes, and my dreams, I realize that life is just a journey through the battlefield of this world—no matter what one does everything can change in an instant. Everything earthly that is, but when our eyes are fixed on heaven, we can see that the battle might be lost, but the War has already been won!

O let me walk with Thee, my God, as Enoch walked in days of old;
Place Thou my trembling hand in Thine, and sweet communion with me hold;
Even though the path I may not see, yet Jesus let me walk with Thee.

I cannot, dare not walk alone; the tempest rages in the sky,
A thousand snares beset my feet, a thousand foes are lurking nigh,
Still Thou the raging of the sea, O Master! Let me walk with Thee.

If I may rest my hand in Thine, I’ll count the joys of earth but loss,
And firmly, bravely journey on; I’ll bear the banner of the cross
Till Zion’s glorious gates I see: yet Savior, let me walk with Thee.
                                                                                    L.D. Avery Stuttle