Thursday, April 7, 2016

Greetings from the garden!!!  The garden is where I have spent every minute I had to spend when I had the energy to be there.  It's been an amazing spring thus far what with the super-early warm temperatures.  It seems to me and Sarah Ellen (our daughter and a fellow gardener) that everything has happened early this year.  And yet, the weather forecasters tell us a freeze is coming.  That's okay because all is in God's hands.  He set up all the earth systems and I'm sure He has it all under His control.  Besides, Habakkuk 3:3 tells us, " . . . His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise."  Even a frost is a form of praise to Him!

A brief update on my cancer situation for those who didn't see my post on Facebook about it:  yesterday (Wednesday, April 6, 2016) Kenny and I went downtown for my very last radiation treatment.  We are finished with the daily cancer business.  From now on, for a few years at least, we will be visiting the doctors every few months.  We are sooooooo relieved and so very thankful to God that I am now cancer free!  It has been an amazing year during which I have learned much about trusting God, praising Him in both what we humans consider to be the good, the bad and the ugly, and serving/loving others.  Thank you all for your many prayers, visits and encouragements over the past year.  Now I will pick up where I left off a year ago with the Gardens in Rabbit Valley. 

As I offered a year ago, I extend the invitation again to visit me in my gardens.  They're not ever in perfect condition, but then only God is perfect, right?  They are healing and beautiful.  There is always something happening, and right now what's happening is all the perennial plants and herbs are GROWING quickly!  Here's a brief rundown and pics of what's available to be dug up and taken home to your garden at this time.

Hosta - this picture is two weeks old.  The hosta have now grown to the point that they have almost entirely covered the soil around them.  These are very special and unique hosta.  I'm saving the story for another post very soon.  As with all wonderful things, there's a good story.  I call this hosta "Survivor."  Watch for the upcoming post to learn more.  Hosta "chunks" are available for $1 each.
Iris - a few of my iris are beginning to bloom.  Things are generally a week to two weeks later than other gardens around us because we are located right at the foot of White Oak Mountain.  My gardens get a couple of hours less sun than most in the area.  I will post more iris pictures as they bloom.  As are all my plants, iris roots are $1.
Sweet Annie - don't let this picture of an 8 inch tall plant fool you:  Sweet Annie grows to 8 feet!  or more if you let it.  Sweet Annie's fragrance makes it worth the space it takes up.  They need to be transplanted soon before the heat sets in and/or the roots get too extensive.  $1
Rose Campion - a very old fashioned plant.  Reseeds readily.  Has a marvelous fuschia-pink bloom like a little daisy.  The foliage resembles lamb's ear.  They bloom in May usually, but probably going to bloom earlier this year.  $1

Daylilies - these are just a few.  Last summer there was one set of leaves in each pot, and now look!  The blooms are pink and yellow.  Each pot is $1.

There is so much more ready to go!  Even if you aren't interested in purchasing, if you just want or need a leisurely stroll through a garden, I'm ready.  You can contact me via email:       or via private message on Facebook:  Valerie Stiner.  Of course if you have my phone number, you are welcome to call or text.  Hope to see you soon.

The Rabbit Valley Gardener

Monday, December 14, 2015

December Update

Greetings to everyone!!!  Hope you are all relishing the knowledge that Jesus loves you so very much!  I'm always troubled during this time of year because it's so evident that so many people celebrate the Christmas season for all the wrong reasons.  Please remember that God gave his only Son to show us how to live on this earth.  Then Jesus gave his life, dying an inhumane and grueling death, to pay for our sins.  He arose!!!!!  He arose from death to make it possible for you and me to commune with Him and our heavenly Father and live with them forever!  Praise God and Praise Jesus!

And during this Christmas season, the cancer battle wages on for me and so many others.  However, my battle has been and will continue to be successful! 

I had a partial mastectomy the Monday before Thanksgiving.  Surgery went well, and I had a fabulous week that week!  I was stunned that I didn't hurt more have bandages.  Then the very morning after Thanksgiving, trouble began.  That story is sort of gross, so suffice it to say that one of my incisions got infected and there was some drainage.  Well, a LOT of drainage.  I called Dr. Valle on Saturday morning to report.  He explained the situation, offered to meet me at the hospital to tend to the wound and other issue, or I could keep LOTS of bandage on the incision and come in to see him Monday.  I chose Monday because it wasn't an emergency, and bless his heart, he has enough to do!  The Monday after Thanksgiving, he drained the wound, bandaged it lightly, and sent me on my way with instructions to come back in two days.  At that visit, everything was looking much better. 

So now, I'm back on track with the healing and recovery.  Yay!

Last Wednesday Kenny and I went to see Dr. Schlabach, my oncologist.  He was thrilled with the after-surgery pathology report.  I will be visiting him every two months for at least the next two years. 

Today, we visited Dr. Gefter, my radiation oncologist.  We are getting ready to begin the radiation treatments in mid to late January.

And that's that!  I am feeling really good, resting some each day, and cherishing time spent focusing on Jesus and all He means to me.  And I must tell you, even if things were not going so well, Jesus would still be wonderful, I would still be cherishing time spent with Him, and God would still be worthy of receiving all my praises!

Hope each and every one who reads this celebrates God's most precious gift to us this Christmas:  His Son and the gift of eternal life with Him!  Blessed Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Soak in the Sonshine!

Strange title for a blog entry created in the midst of days and days and days of rain (or so it seems.)  Mind you, I'm NOT complaining!  The weather fits right in with what Jesus is leading me to share.  So here goes:

For over a year now, I've been working my way through Jesus Today, a devotional in the series of devotionals written by Sarah Young.  Before I began this, our precious Sarah Marie (Ken's wife) had given me and both my girls copies of Jesus Calling by the same author.  We received this gift the day before Easter, 2013.  We were a family in crisis at that time.  So we began to read.  Every single day was unspeakably amazing how the devotion and verses for that day were precisely relevant to what was happening to me that day!  It became even more amazing when we all compared notes and shared how the devotional had to have been written just for each one of us.  I knew there was only ONE WAY this could be occurring:  JESUS obviously had a hand in Sarah Young's writing. 

For those of you not familiar with these devotionals, in each one the author shares how the devotional was inspired.  It is usually my habit to wait until I've finished a book of any kind before I read any of the author notes.  So once I had finished a year of Jesus Calling, I was amazed to realize how beautifully Jesus had used her trials and suffering to produce such a spiritually powerful book.  I couldn't believe a year had passed and I was without my daily devotional guide.  Off to the store I went to check out her other works.  I came home with Jesus Today.  From the very first devotional reading, I had this underlying feeling that this devotional wasn't for me.  As the days progressed, the feeling persisted:  this devotional seemed to be written for someone who was suffering devastating illness, and I wasn't that person in the spring of 2014. Everyone was fine  in my little world, or so I thought. After a couple of weeks, I gave in and read the author notes in hopes of determining whether I was to continue with this book or move on to something else.  Maybe Jesus was nudging me out of what had become a habit and was moving me on to something else.

Much to my amazement, the inspirations for these devotions came from a mysterious, long and maddening physical illness Sarah Young had experienced, and was still struggling with!  So I was right!  It WAS for suffering through sickness, but I wasn't sick! However,  I had long before realized that Jesus can use anything to teach me, mold me, make me who He wants me to be, so I prayed about it, didn't find another direction, and chose to keep reading.

December 2014:  Devastating news about our precious little grandson still in utero:  multiple heart defects.  We were stunned.  It was very difficult during this time, but this little one's mommy, daddy, grandmommy and papaw clung to Jesus for hope and spiritual sustenance.

Spring, 2015:  I had completed another devotional.  Time to find a new one.  As days progressed, I prayed for Jesus's guidance in finding another devotional.  I realize one mustn't have a devotional in order to study the Word or hear from Jesus; however, I had been in this for two years!  It had been an amazing journey!  I wanted more and more and more.  Strangely, I felt led to start the whole "sickness" devotional over again.  And then it happened:  a diagnosis of breast cancer.  A really bad form of breast cancer:  triple negative, very aggressive; etc.  Then it all made perfect sense to me.  Had Jesus been preparing me for this journey?  I believe so.  There had been so many people in my life with cancer:  an aunt with breast cancer (she won!), a precious friend at school who didn't survive; another precious friend at school who was years younger than me and had two small children to raise alone without the help of their father (she won her battle and gave amazing testimonies all through the journey!); another precious friend at school whose cancer battle didn't begin with breast cancer, but spread to that and more, so much more (she struggles even as I type at a local hospital with her family gathered round - and her praises and testimonies and determination to glorify God  even in and through  cancer!!!!! astounded me and have continued to astound me for over three years now!!!!!  A sweet friend at school with colon cancer (she won the battle!!); another precious friend at school with a mysterious sudden-onset and quick-killing form of cancer (she died within weeks of diagnosis and left a college-aged son and fourteen-year-old daughter to press on without her). Another aunt and an uncle who both lost the battle.   I could go on and on and on.  So when I sat on the examination table at Dr. Valle's office, and he told me about my breast cancer, my responses were, "Okay." and "I understand." and "Yes."  No tears; no sobs; no shock apparent (to me or him); Just okay.  In my mind at the time I was thinking, "Okay, it's my turn.  God will get us through this." Anyway, I wasn't about to get all tore up about me:  I had a new little grandchild who desperately clung to life waiting for Jesus to heal his heart!   Dr. Valle looked at me and sort of got right in front of my face and said, "Do you understand what I am telling you?"  When I responded in the positive, he said, "Tell me what I am telling you."  So I repeated it all back to him in total calm.  His response was, "You are a strong woman!"  I didn't argue at that point with his busy schedule to keep and all, but I so am NOT a strong woman.  I have a strong Friend in Jesus.  There's nothing strong about me at all. Besides, I had already realized by that point that Dr. Valle is a Christian.  He had said enough to show me that.   But back to the devotional.

At some point after my battle with cancer began, a sweet friend recommended another book to me, A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Another life-changing, life-challenging book!  Her book is all about seeing the gifts God showers upon us every single day.  I had already adopted that mindset years previous, but she has a way of putting it on paper that is truly thought-provoking, uplifting, and challenging all at the same read.  I don't want to write too much about that now because I intend to share more about it soon, but a very challenging focus has come to me out of her writing:  Even what we consider to be the bad things in life are truly gifts from God. God may not cause or create the chaotic situations in our lives, but He allows in His sovereignty and then blesses us with so many blessings through those situations.  Ann Voskamp goes into great detail about that with real-life examples to prove her point.  If we look, if we are willing to look, we will see God in every single particle of our existence, even the horrible.  Now for today's devotional: 

"I have done great things for you, so let Me fill you with Joy.  Take ample time to ponder all I have done for you.  Rejoice in My goodness and My greatness as you remember My marvelous deeds.  Rest in My intimate Presence; relax in My everlasting arms.  I long to fill you with Joy, but you must collaborate with Me in this process.

Do not be like a spoiled child on Christmas Day -- hastily tearing open all the presents and then saying, "Is that all?"  Every single day is a precious gift from Me!  Search for Me within the boundaries of this day, and you will surely find Me.  I am present not only in pleasant things, but also in unwanted circumstances.  My Joy is sufficient for all situations, and I adjust it according to your need.  When things are going your way, My gladness intensifies your delight.  When you encounter hard things, I give you a deep, bold Joy that clings to Me for help.  Receiving My Joy requires not only time but also courage."  p. 254  Jesus Today by Sarah Young.

But even better, from God's word:  "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."  1 Peter 1:6-8

With all this in my mind and heart today, as Kenny and I took our doggies out for precious rain-free moment outside, Kenny pointed to some evergreens we had planted along a hill.  He commented, "Isn't it amazing the way the amount of sun each tree gets determines how tall it grows?  They're like stair steps!"  Can you see them?

The first thought I had and the first words out of my mouth were, "The same could be said for time spent with Jesus.  That tall tree spends lots of time soaking in the Son, but that little one on the end thinks he's just too busy."  Not criticizing anyone, just speaking out loud the truth that the Spirit has been pouring into me, the Sonshine I've been soaking in lately.  I wish I soaked more.  I must soak more.  One can never get enough of that precious Sonshine.

Joy even in despair.  Joy is a gift from God!  He gives it even and because of the hard times in life.  Do you look for it?  You gotta be looking for it.  I hope we will all focus more on soaking in the Sonshine at Jesus's feet through the Word, through devotionals, through prayer, through song,  through looking for God's not so obvious but oh so precious joy blessings.  It is life changing! Oh, and let me tell you, they become obvious once you start looking.

Thanks for staying with me to the end.  I'm not known for my brevity.  Please know that Jesus through His Spirit told me to share this today, and now He is letting me know I've written enough.  Hope you get the message.  He loves you so, so, so much and wants to give you joys on top of joys.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Time for an Update

Surgery tomorrow . . . finally!!!  After meeting with Dr. Valle, I didn't hear anything from his office for almost two weeks.  At the end of last week, at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday, I called his office and asked for information on a surgery date.  Turned out I hadn't even been put on the calendar, so his assistant put me on the surgery calendar for tomorrow, Monday, November 23.  Turns out the delay was them wanting to get past the holidays in case I was planning to travel.  I reminded her again that I wasn't going anywhere and that my and Kenny's schedule these days is devoted to whatever medical needs I have, so let's get this show on the road! 

Surgery is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.  However, I will have two procedures prior to surgery.  The first one will be in the morning.  Dr. Valle will put a wire into the tumor (or into what's left of it).  This is so he can go directly to the tumor during surgery without hunting for it (because it's down to that small of a size thank and praise to God!!!)

The second procedure will be to inject dye into the breast tissue several hours before surgery.  The dye will then travel to the lymph nodes that feed the portion of breast tissue where the tumor is located.  As a result, any lymph nodes showing dye will be removed and tested for cancer.  I think I've got that right.  Any lymph nodes removed will be tested and if more cancer is found, I will return to surgery at a later date for a complete mastectomy.

The surgery I'm having is referred to as a "partial mastectomy."  In other words, I'm having a lumpectomy tomorrow.  Again, many praises and thanks to God! 

Many friends and family have asked if this is an outpatient procedure.  Ordinarily it is, but because my surgery is scheduled for so late in the day, whether or not I get to come home tomorrow night depends on how I do during and after surgery and, of course, how late surgery actually happens.

In the meantime, I have complete peace about the entire process.  I am so ready to move forward with treatment of this cancer.  After tomorrow, bring on the holidays!  I'm very much looking forward to Thanksgiving with family.  We all have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season, and yes, every single moment of every single day.

I wanted to share a verse with this  post, and the first one that came to mind is Phillipians 1:6, but rather than contemplating this verse in reference to others (it's a great verse to pray for others and to encourage others) tonight I claim this verse for myself and for Kenny:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 

Blessed and happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Moving On

It's been six weeks since I posted an update on my journey through breast cancer.  Today I have lots of news to share.  My sincere thanks to any and all of you who are interested in my journey.  I continue to be amazed at the number of people who truly care for me and have expressed their concern, support and encouragement. 

As I think back, it was right about the time of my last update that I noticed my hands and feet were feeling . . . strange . . . a sort of numb feeling.  Ironically, my oncologist had just asked me that week if I had noticed any numbness in my fingers or toes.  I joked with him the next week that it was the power of his suggestion that made me begin to notice the numbness because it was literally the day after he asked me that I began to notice it.  Within two weeks the numbness (called neuropathy - a form of nerve damage) had spread across the entire surface of my hands and feet.  I began to stumble occasionally, had trouble picking up little things, struggled with papers at school and found turning pages in textbooks nearly impossible (combination of dead fingernails and the numbness).  The week after that, my nurse asked me how the numbness was.  My response was "the same."  She was very determined and stern as she instructed me to let them know if it intensified or changed in any way.  The next week, she asked and I informed her that it hadn't lessened, may even have worsened.  When she began to ask questions about my ability to do the normal things we all do every day, and she got around to asking me if had tripped any, I just looked at Kenny, and we laughed.  I had tripped at least three times that very morning.  Little did I know what would result.  Before beginning administering my chemo, she wanted to contact the doctor and let him know about the neuropathy.  Since he was in the downtown office that day (he is usually in the Gunbarrel office on my chemo days), it took almost an hour for them to hear back from him.  The directive:  no chemo that day.  He wanted to see if the neuropathy would diminish if we halted the chemo temporarily.  I had two more treatments to go, and I was really anxious to finish the chemo.  However, he's the expert, and he had explained to me that the neuropathy could be permanent.  He was trying to keep that from happening.

The next week (the day I would have been finished with chemo):  no treatment.  Maybe next week.

The next week (last week):  Dr. Schlabach had decided I would have no more chemo.  I was finished!  That was it!  So with that, we had finished the first stage of breast cancer treatment.  I literally danced and jumped up and down in the lab upon hearing the news.

The sad part:  all my caregivers there were so sad because they said they wouldn't be seeing me anymore.  They were happy, but they were sad.  They had "graduated" several other patients just that week.  I promised I would come back to see them, and I will.  I will miss our visits.  They are all so caring and cheerful and professional all at the same time.  My experience with them combined with our experience with Ty's birth and surgeries has given me an entirely new perspective on nurses and what a ministry they have in caring for us.

So, having finished the chemo, an MRI was scheduled.  We got that done yesterday.  Today we met with Dr. Schlabach for the results.  The tumor that had started so large is down to barely 1/2 cm in diameter.  So exciting!  The doctor is of the opinion that a lumpectomy will be the appropriate surgery for me.  He feels certain enough to say so.  He was so pleased with the results.  He texted my surgeon, Dr. Valle', right then and there to tell him I was ready for surgery.

Next week, on Wednesday, Kenny and I will meet with Dr. Valle' and determine a surgery date and confirm exactly what type of surgery I will have (probably a lumpectomy).  After recovery from the surgery, intensive radiation treatments will begin.  But that's the next stage.  We are so glad to be through the first stage and ready to begin the second stage of treatment.

Looking back at the last update, I have to smile at the progress I've made.  Almost everything tastes delicious!!!  I have really enjoyed eating this last week.  It took two weeks for the deadening of my taste-ability to wear off.  L.O.V.I.N.G. Couch's barbeque!!!!!  Every chance I get!  Today I had Ken's chili.  It was the perfect day for that yummy, spicy, chunky chili.  With Fritos.  Yummmmm!

A few days ago I noticed little hairs sticking out all over my head.  Sparse but there!  And noticeable.  And then there's the fuzz coming in that appears to be totally and completely white!!!  Won't that be interesting?!  Now I had plenty of gray hair back in May, but it wasn't WHITE! 

None of my fingernails have fallen off.  That's not how it works anyway.  They loosen and you have to cut them off.  I know that because I had to remove the big toenail on my right foot this morning.  The entire nail had died, turned white and let go.  So I cut it off.  Not having a dead nail on my toe feels so much better.  In fact, I've been cutting back my dead fingernails, too.  That makes them feel better and enables me to be able to function without having to be so careful and without hurting all the time.  Kenny predicts that in 30 days my nails will be back to normal.  I hope so.

The tiredness persists, but since I've begun my medical leave from school, it's not so intense.  If you have never taught school or worked in a school, you can have no idea how intense the work is and how worn out teachers and other school personnel can be!  If you know a teacher, school secretary, principal, custodian, guidance counselor or other school personnel, please thank them for their work and encourage them.  This is just my first week out of school, and I don't run out of energy at noon every day, but by 4:00 p.m. I'm out of steam and longing for a nap.

Oh! My! Stars! the itching!!!!  I itch all over.  It's just about driving me crazy.  I wake up in the middle of the night itching and have to get up and get a hairbrush or backscratcher and tend to my itchy back . . . and arms . . . and legs . . . and scalp . . . and eyes!  My eyes are driving me insane itching!  And as I suspected, this is withdrawal from the chemo.  The Taxol was administered with heavy doses of Benadryl and steroids.  Those two were to help my body not suffer side effects of the Taxol.  However, they also put my itchy skin to rest.  It was a wonderful few weeks of itchlessness.  My itching came back with a vengeance,  but Dr. Schlabach assures me this too shall pass.

On a side note, we took Kenny to see an orthopedic doctor today for his shoulder.  We knew from xrays done several years ago that Kenny has "a bone spur" on his right shoulder joint.  We figured we would see Dr. Smalley, he would have xrays made, he would come back and tell us he would take the spur out, and Kenny would be his wonderful, active self again.  Not gonna happen.  We were shocked to hear the words "need a shoulder replacement" come out of the doctor's mouth.  Shocked!  Kenny has absolutely no cartilage left in his right shoulder joint.  Dr.Smalley called it "bone-on-bone arthritis."  And there is not just "a bone spur."  There are several.  What???????  Kenny and I just looked at each other.  Could. Not. Believe. This.  My indestructible, busy, active, work-a-holic hubby.  Then came the good news.  Kenny can try a daily anti-inflammatory to see if it will help.  He also got a cortisone shot to the shoulder today.  Please pray these help ease his pain.  Dr. Smalley told Kenny we can wait until Kenny is ready for the replacement surgery.  Trust me, Kenny is no where near ready for that surgery!  That's a big one! 

So here we are, two "senior citizens," doing what senior citizens do, I guess:  the best we can as our bodies slowly wear out.  And thankful for each and every day God gives to us to live and praise Him!  To enjoy our lives, our children, our friends, our grandbabies, and so much more. 

And who decided that you become a "senior citizen" when you turn 60?  Oh well, one day at a time.  One challenge at a time.  Jesus promised to be with us all the time, in everything.  God is a very present help in time of trouble.  I know that for a fact.  I pray for His blessings upon you all and thank Him constantly for His love, patience, longsuffering with me, and the Hope of Heaven with Him.

I'll update y'all again when there's something to tell.  Love to all!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Update on My Journey

It's been a long time since I posted an update on my journey through breast cancer treatment.  Since July 1 to be exact.  To all who have wondered, please accept my apologies.  We as a family have traveled through some really difficult issues and times over the course of July and August.  Now here we are having survived and even overcome!  Thanks to all who prayed for us.

We finished the four rounds of really difficult chemo in July.  Those treatments were administered every other week for eight weeks.  Then we (Kenny and I - he does everything with me so we are both going through this! - God bless him!) moved into chemo every Wednesday for twelve weeks.  We have five more to go!  Mid-October we will be finished with chemo for good!

When school resumed in early August, back to work I went.  It's hard every day, but it has to be done to keep our insurance going.  God gets me through each day.

At this time, I am tired all the time.  That's normal response to chemo, I guess.  My fingernails are dying one by one and some of them (one very soon) are going to fall off.  My toes, fingers, soles of my feet and palm of my hands, and sometimes my tongue are numb.  This is a normal reaction to the chemo drug being given at this time.  I also have A LOT of trouble tasting things.  Most of the foods I can taste are foods I shouldn't be eating, but I have decided to deal with that (aka clean up my act) and get back to some good healthy eating when I get my sense of taste back.  Another really annoying side effect of this drug is weight gain.  It's happening.  Enough said.  How on earth can one gain weight when one is not eating much and not enjoying any of what is being eaten?  Oh well.

Pretty much all my hair is gone - ALL my hair.  My nose bleeds when I have to blow it, which is often because with no nose hair, my nose stays irritated.  Too much information?    Then let's stop there.

On the positive side, on my last physical exam two weeks ago, the doctor could "barely detect a slight thickening of tissue" as opposed to an obvious lump!  I am very excited about this.  The chemo is working!!!  When chemo is completed in five weeks, there will be a three to four week recoup time to build strength.  Then I will have surgery.  I am thinking mastectomy, but final decisions will be made early November.  Surgery mid-November.  Then I don't know, but I do know monitoring continues for a couple of years beyond chemo and surgery.

So there you go!  The latest.  I don't imagine anything will change between now and the end of the chemo treatments.  I really appreciate all your prayers, cards, thoughts and encouraging words and messages.

God bless!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chemo #3: DONE!

Just a quick update for those who want to informed.  Kenny and I went for the works today:  blood work, doctor visit, chemo.  Dr. Schlabach is such a compassionate and loving person!  He greeted me with a big hug and left me with a big hug!  How could he have known I'm a hugger?  Only God could have orchestrated that I have three Christian doctors for this journey.  Each of my doctors has let me know they are Christians by things they say, not just alluding to the Bible or God, but mentioning them outright in comments meant to help me fight this fight and win this war!  Which reminds me of my devotion today.  I'm re-reading Jesus Today by Sarah Young.  Excellent devotional for anyone.  I remember when I started it thinking, "Well, I just don't know if this one is meant for me because it sounds like this was written for someone with a dire illness or something."  Hah!  Who could have known, but our precious loving God!  So, having just finished the final devotion Monday, I turned right back to the first devotion and started all over again.  In today's reading, Jesus points out that the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me, and/or to you, is that He would stop loving me.  He continues to point out that since that's not even within the realm of possibility, I can relax and live each day even more abundantly knowing that whatever comes my way, I win!!!!  Even if, and eventually one day, I die, even that will be a blessing because I will be immediately with Him!  So you see, no matter what a day brings to us, we are ultimately the receivers of the greatest blessing:  in His presence!  By the way, Sarah Young did indeed write this devotional over the course of three years while fighting debilitating illness.  How God has used her illness and her writing!  Amazing!

     "Neither height nor depth, or anything else in all
     creation, will be able to separate us from the love
     of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Rom. 8:39

Praises!!!!  Praises!!! And as the song we sang Sunday says, "How can it be?!"  But it is!  He has promised and He will not fail to deliver in His time.  What a blessed comfort to know this.

So, with all that in mind, back to the doctor and chemo report.  My blood work numbers looked really good.  To quote one of the nurses, "Those numbers look like a normal person."  That's very good news.  So that Newlasta (sp?) shot I got really worked!  Worth every little bit of resulting pain (and there wasn't much - which is wonderful because Dr. Schlabach said some people REALLY HURT after that shot).  

Then to the doc for an examination of the tumor.  He had a hard time finding it!!!  It's shrunk again!!!  So today he said the chemo is definitely working.  Praise God!!!  I am totally amazed!

On a not so positive note, I've been having some serious stabbing pains just below my right ribs.  When I told Dr. Schlabach about them, I mentioned that my mom thought it was my gall bladder.  Congratulations, Mama!  You nailed it!  The doc said he agrees with my mom.  It has to be my gall bladder.  Then when he asked what I had eaten, it became all too obvious.  It was really funny.  I told him pizza one night, barbeque the next.  He laughed and said, "Well, at least it wasn't fried chicken!"  Me and Kenny burst out laughing because a week ago, the first time I had the pains, we were loving us some home-fried chicken!!!!!!  Looks like I'm in for some serious diet makeover.

Then to chemo, where they took some blood directly from my port to run some extensive blood work (more so than the weekly finger-stick).  This time, some questions.  Have I not been drinking lots of liquids?  My kidney function wasn't looking right.  I am totally ignorant of the numbers and their meanings, but my production of   ________?????? was on the low end of high and was significantly higher than my beginning level.  So, I MUST force liquids.  Yuck.  But I must.  God will help me.

Y'all please pray for me to force liquids and be able to stomach healthier food.  Right now I couldn't eat a salad if I had to.  However, I could eat more vegetables and they are abundant right now.  In fact I had squash, zuchini and tomato pie for dinner last night.  Now that sounds healthy to me!

The chemo went well.  Since we were at Gunbarrel rather than downtown, and it was only Day 2 at this new location for the staff, I met another new nurse.  Please pray that God will show me how to witness to her.  I asked enough to be sure she does not know Jesus.  However, the other nurse who helped me was wearing a beautiful cross necklace.  When I complimented her, she said, "Thanks.  It helps me remember why I'm here."   Ahhhh! and there is was.  A fellow Christian to help me witness to the other.  

If I follow the pattern established by the first two chemo visits, I will be sound asleep this time tomorrow.  So you won't be hearing from me until Sunday, when I will groggily emerge from my drug-induced slumbers.

Two weeks ago tomorrow, little Ty was having open-heart surgery.  You should see him now!  He's home and thriving and doing what any little three-month-old baby should be doing! Check out Meagan's blog to see good pics.

 So much to be thankful for and praise God for!

Love y'all.  Happy July 4th!!  God help our country.