Saturday, August 31, 2013

how to grow in your weakness


"Grow Strong in your weakness.  Some of My children I've gifted with abundant strength and stamina. Others like you have received the humble gift of frailty.  Your frailty is not a punishment, nor does it indicate a lack of faith.  On the contrary, weak ones must live by faith, depending on Me to get you through the day..." Jesus Calling by Sarah Young


I hear it all the time lately... "How are you doing?"  "Ohhh, I'm ok."  And then I don't know what to say, I don't really have a solid follow up to that right now.  

It feels like we're headed in so many new directions.

I can string together some hours in the day when essentially I feel fairly good.  But Tykerb is just dang tricky.  I can manage a few days when 4 pills might just be the right dose, until that day that sneaks up on me and flattens me with diarrhea so intense I am confined to a space just steps away from the bathroom for hours at a time, if not longer.

Then there are the days after when I think I have recovered.  I find renewed energy.  So I head out. Only to grow dizzy, lightheaded, weak and tired.  I battle dehydration often.  Our extended heat wave hasn't helped.  And with the all the changes in our house?  I don't have many places to go anymore that are quiet and restorative, unless I go to bed. So its quiet and I could blog, but don't have access to anything from that location.  (Hence the week of no posts)

The boys have taken over our living room with the computer and tv, while the "office" has overtaken the entire basement and the garage, with overflow spilling into our closets and hallways. Its worth the money it saves us on office rental fees, but we don't have it all figured out just yet.  How to live, work and find some restoration all in the same cramped space has eluded us so far.

Then theres just all the "hard" that is so difficult to talk about in a casual and offhand way.  The wills we are preparing. That day my forever friend comes to me and says "It's time."  She is my bestie, and my attorney and we both have tears when she comes to be "both" with me.  It hits me, hard, not only do I have to think about who needs to be covered by my will, but also, whose wills can I no longer be a part of?  

Rick and I lay awake long hours discussing the hows, the whys, the ways it will all be.  We all have to face this, its a normal rite of passage when you have kids and extended family to watch out for.  Its just that noise I hear that is different, hovering in the near distance- the ticking of my clock- just a little louder than some. 

Our new associate pastor called last week.  Pastor Mary and I will have coffee in a couple of weeks. She called to say she has just read my OTMOM magazine article, and perhaps her and I should get to know one another better? I stifle the urge to shush the ticking clock, while embracing the fact she wants to come spend time with me. 

Sanford finance also popped back onto the scene.  It will take closing out our benefit fund and most of our savings to pay off our current bill.  I'm relieved we have enough to do so.  Its been 2 and 1/2 years where the generosity of others has seen us through.  I feel nothing but gratitude and hope for our future, as we begin to chart our new direction again.  We've been sent a stack of paper work to fill out so Sanford can determine how best to help us.  Stay tuned... 


I thought I'd leave you with a hint of a surprise event coming my way in the upcoming months.  

We attended a wedding reception at Rustic Oaks last Thursday night.  It's a beautiful retreat center that uses a barn that has been redone but still has most of its "bones" in tact.  I can't wait to shoot more photos to share of the whole property. 

The reception was a sneak preview of a place that I will attend again in the near future.  It has something to do with me and Dr. Panwalkar, oh and a group of women.  Will be back again soon with more details to come! 




Thank you to all of you who have reached out to me this past week.  It can get lonely and a person can feel isolated after spending so much time tucked away.  I will try to figure out a blogging solution so long lapses don't occur.  I miss it too much- along with all of you.

Tuesday is our first day of school...  I will also see Dr. P and have infusion... be back soon.  

~All shall be well~


"I am developing your ability to trust Me, to lean on Me, rather than your own understanding.  Your natural preference is to plan our your day, knowing what will happen when.  My preference if for you to depend on Me continually, trusting Me to guide you and strengthen you as needed.  This is how you grow in your weakness."

August 31, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young










Thursday, August 22, 2013

... the art of holding on...


I'm holding on... despite the nasty side effects kicking back in.  The cramps in my feet were more than Rick or I could massage out last night.  It took me gulping down water while we poured steaming water  and lavendar epsom salt into the tub and pushed my arched foot and toes underneath.  

Each night I put off taking my Tykerb till just a little later in the evening.  Last night it was nearly midnight before I could push myself to go take it. 

I finally settled in for the night, only to be awoken hours later, cramping now residing in my stomach.  I was soon up with a stomach both cramping and emptying in epic proportions. It took most of the night, but, Immodium finally kicked in early this morning and I slept fitfully for awhile.  

Dr. P already predicted this would occur, and gave me permission to cut back on the Tykerb if needed.  

Its so tricky... finding the balance.  Enough to hold back the cancer, and yet enough so that I can live fully.  Thankfully, I'm reminded each day, He is enough, whether anything else feels like it or not. 

And when He is enough?

Despite all these little annoyances...

Do you know what I am holding onto? 

All of Him...along with...

All of you... 

The response to my "I just want..." post, has breathed life into me.  I feel buoyed and strengthened by such a compassionate and encouraging outpouring of love and life- that rather than feel discouraged- I feel fully alive.  

Just look what has continued to be a part of my daily life.  

I hope Marta is okay with me sharing her beautiful artwork- a whole booklet of inspiration!  Thank you sweet girl! 




I choose a different page in this book almost daily- I love how my friend Aim gets me time and time again.







My niece, Madi, recommended this book to me.  I'm half way through.  Its a trilogy in young adult fiction and it reminds me of The Hunger Games which I truly enjoyed.  


And this is next on my list... has anyone read it yet?  Looks good to me! 


I can't say if she knew how badly my feet could use this- but oh what a delightful gift!  I'm nearly 1/4th into it already- but the salve works wonders on my deeply peeling and sore feet.  Thank you from my far-away friend Jennifer!  






What are you hanging onto these days?  Any books I must read?  Movies to add to my netflix Queue? 

I'm having to stay a little close to home trying to get my stomach and issues under control.  Thank you all for sending me just enough to know I'll be okay. 

Sending love to you all...


Monday, August 19, 2013

I just want...

I just want to watch my oldest son snipe a high school goalie top shelf.  To see his team mates, the Spuds, surround him as they gather in a group as young men, celebrating the moment of unadulterated joy. He has wanted this since he was 3 years old.

I just want to watch my youngest son round the bases, his eyes glued to the coach, as the throw comes to the cut off, and the coach knowing its going to be close, wave him home, knowing my son will accelerate his stride and push all the way through to home plate, scoring a run.  This boys eyes grow wide each time he hits the ball farther into the field and he rounds more bases.  I so want to see him grow closer to his dream.

I just want movie nights like last week, where 2 adults, 2 kids and a dog recline on 1 big bed watching "Pitch Perfect," in a darkened room, late into the night, sprinkled with laughter and wide-eyed amusement.

I just want to watch my biggest boy get his driver's license.  To not just practice shifting the Prius in and out of gear with me, but to sit in the driver's seat and grip the actual wheel, steering us off into the future of all his tomorrows.

I just want to sign littlest boy up to be on the Rachel Ray and Guy Fieri new cooking show with kids.  He leaps up in the bed when they show the previews and exclaims "I would so do that!" I can cook Ramen noodles you know!"  Oh... that boy... clearly has my heart.  I just want to watch him do just that...

I just want to see my babies through this rocky tweeny time as brothers.  Where emotions flare quick one minute, and shouts and names pierce the air,  then simmer the next minute as they sit together building their hockey rinks on Minecraft, dreaming big dreams, in their still young boy worlds.

I just want this "shot glass" full of dreams.  No bucket lists for me.  No grandiose, monumental, gigantic dreams.

I just want all the days, in all the everyday ways...  graduations.  Grandchildren.  Growing old with Superman.

The grit along with the glory.

I just want gratitude that fills my journal 10,000 ways in 10,000 days.

I just want...

*****************************************************************

He calls earlier than I anticipate.  The number on my phone tells me the call is coming from Roger Maris and my heart beat quickens.

"Panwalkar here."  His voice is loud and steady.

"Your recent PET scan does not look any different than your last CT scan.  It still shows growth in your lungs over your last PET scan in May.  But the tumors are stable from your last CT scan."

Its middle of the road.  Perhaps a small chance the Tykerb will hold things in check?

I'm stable for now.

"Any other questions?"

"My cough? Can we do something about my persistent cough?"

"I will call in an order for Tessalon Perles, they should help relax your muscles and suppress the urge to cough."

"Increase your dose of Tykerb.  See you in 2 weeks."

*********************************************************************

I just want 2 weeks + 2 weeks + 2 weeks...

I just want...









Thursday, August 15, 2013

pouring out...


My fingerprints, forever entwined around my boys, etched in metal, wrapped in love... sigh...



All thanks to this friend...


My friend Wendy, a Child Life Specialist at Sanford, had the fingerprint dog tags made for me.   She had no idea it was tagged as something I wanted on Pinterest.  The coincidences are never lost on me.  

How lucky can you get that someone would think to have something made for you that you always desired?  

Of course, she has rescued me before.

Wendy and I went to college together.  At the end of my Senior year, we both went on a May Seminar through Concordia College.  We traveled across Europe- Russia, England, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  When I stepped into line awaiting assignment of a roommate, it was Wendy who assuredly pushed her suitcase next to mine and said "we'll room together."  Instant friends.  So many stories to tell. Having tea together every day in London.  Getting lost in Paris riding the "redline" subway train and literally paying a cleaning women to open a gate and let us out. Or doing Bob's Bavarian Alps tour with her in Salzburg and seeing every place where the Sound of Music was shot!  Or how we were followed by the KGB in St. Petersburg one night.  

We were young, adventurous, and fun girls.  We made memories to last a lifetime.

It was volunteering for Cully's Kids that brought us back together all these years later.  

Her visits to infusion have lifted my spirits and the gift of the dog tags?  Touched me more than words can adequately express.


So on Tuesday, Dr. Panwalkar decided to have a PET scan done to look at my lungs.  My pesky cough continues.  My wound is wide open.  My feet are peeling again. And I have some tenderness in a spot in my ribs.  

The PET scan is scheduled for 1200 today.  I'm fasting this morning, and will arrive at 1030 am to begin preparation for the scan.  I'll be home later this afternoon. 

I covet your prayers.  

His will, not mine.  His way, not mine.  Trusting He has this as I deeply surrender.  

Dr. Panwalkar was very forthright in admitting he will have a tough time determining what line of treatment would come next.  The ones remaining are the hard core chemos and would just plain make me sick.  But, I'm not without hope that the Tykerb may be working and the cancer may be stable enough for me to continue on with this drug.

I should know the results by the end of the week or first part of next week.  

Jesus Calling:  Make Me your Refuge by pouring out your heart to Me, trusting in Me at all times.

Sarah Young










Monday, August 12, 2013

...when happiness hears your name...


“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.” 
― حافظ


It caught me.  Happiness that is... the staggering response we have felt from the on the minds of moms magazine feature, has truly been well?  Completely overwhelming.

I'm still counting my gifts and my journal pages are adding up rapidly.

I had a really thoughtful friend bring stamps, envelopes and extra magazines to my house.

So I spent the day Saturday fulfilling all the requests for a copy of the magazine.  We've mailed them to California, Texas, Georgia, South Dakota, Minnesota, and lots and lots of places.

Then when I went to the lab to pick up a test for my mom?  They asked for a copy.  And when I brought my mom's test back to them?  They had read it and wanted more to share. 

Plus some of the other unexpected surprises?

I heard from Colton's first pre-school teacher!

I've received phone calls, cards, texts, emails.

Somebody bought us dinner last night. 

I went to get blood work today at Roger Maris and was hugged three times before I left.  The waiting room was packed with patients in the throes of their horrible disease.  Wheel chairs scattered amongst walkers.  Lots of frail, grey, bald, and beautiful people- in the fight of their lives.  

And there they are- all the caring, compassionate people who tirelessly work there.  Both the staff and the volunteers. They pour out hope and belief and concern.  They pray when we're sick and cheer when we're well and hold us together when we are too weak and frail to think we can go on much more. 

On this day, happiness caught us all.  Amidst the pain.  The worry.  The cancer.  Happiness snuck in- calling my name.  I've been out here waiting for it to catch me.  So I could fully embrace it back.



I'll see Dr. Panwalkar in the morning and then have my infusion of herceptin to follow.



I thought I'd share the last of our photos from our Minneapolis trip last weekend.  


Saturday in the Cities we decided to take the kids to Como Zoo as we've never been before.  The admission price was perfect for us- only a suggested donation which we happily made.

The flower photos are mine- happily the animal pictures are all Rick's. 

























Saturday night Grandpa Jim stayed with the boys so Rick and I could go out to eat.  We closed out a business credit card and turned our points into restaurant gift certificates.  We felt spoiled rotten.




After dinner, as guests at the hotel in the Foshay Tower, we had free access to the observation deck above.  The views were stunning.




I also took a few shots as we walked from the restaurant to the hotel.


The IDS building with the Foshay Tower reflected on its side.


The Foshay Tower.


The surprisingly modern decor inside the hotel.  We always hotwire our rooms and have ended up here once before.  It has a pretty hip and young vibe and was perfectly comfortable.  While I perhaps prefer a bit more light and crisp, it was a fun alternative.








To end our evening, we went upstairs to the lounge where we were treated to an ambient light cast from a setting sun across the cityscape.  



Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's here!

The knock on my door caught me by surprise last night.  I opened the door expecting to see one of the neighborhood kids.  But no- it was Dani, the editor/cofounder of OTMOM standing with a "hot off the press" bundle of magazines!  

Its funny the thoughts that run through your mind.  I'd been weeding the tomato plants and they were strewn all over.  Plus I had sweated off half my make up and was in the midst of scouring my face.  Rick had carted home boxes of yearbooks and they are stacked in my entry way.  Then you add in all the dog bones and toys, the kids shoes, and the boy stuff and oh my- my house was just a hot mess.

And then I just didn't care.  It's Dani!  The "on the minds of moms" magazines are officially here!  

It was Dani who contacted me about her idea for the story.  Sheri and Dani would come to my house and interview me.  Then Sheri would skillfully craft our story together using part interview, and part posts from my blog. The concept was brilliant! The story makes my heart swoon.  Have I said what a lucky girl I am?  Because... I so am. 

So if you'd like to read the story in full, you will find the link to the story by clicking over here:


Please feel free to "like" their page and leave them some love. 

This is their FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!  Will you say hello- to Dani and Sheri? Wish them well- celebrate their awesomeness just a little?  


Thanks again to Ria for her beautiful work!  You know we are saving up so we can plaster our walls with just a few, cough, many of these one day soon! 










One last question for you?  If you live locally you can find a magazine at the following locations if you check here.

But so many of my readers live all across the country.  If you would like a magazine of your own- will you kindly email me and let me know?  We will do our level best to mail one your way if you would like!  

Email me at: vwestra14@gmail.com

Blessings and love to one and all! 








Monday, August 5, 2013

sneak-peek-surprise


I'm a teary-eyed, shivering, emotional and deeply humbled woman...  


At long last... a sneak peek of what is to come... 

We were so honored to be asked to be the feature story in this month's 

on the minds of moms!!

With photos taken by our uber-amazing friend, Ria, of rialee photography... pure gift all by itself...

a link to subscribe to the digital copy of our feature story is here and the magazine should be out in stores, locally, in the next few days!  Stay tuned... all the details to follow soon... 









So where did we go this past weekend? 



We had planned this trip last summer, last August.  But when we tried to remember why we didn't go last summer?  We were slammed with the grief that had descended like a boom on our lives, the day Carole, Rick's mom and Jim's wife, passed away last August 6th. 

So Jim asked if we wanted to go this August.  We all decided to bring our nephew Gunnar, who has never been to a Twins game and Grandpa treated us all to a wonderful weekend in the Cities.  Jim has been beyond generous with seizing the moments and treating us to memory making adventures that will carry us on into the future. We couldn't do half of what we have done without him and the boys have such a great role-model in him.  So grateful. 

The night was perfect!  The Twins had been on a losing streak and we weren't certain what kind of a game to expect.

But it was a great game!  It blew past 9 innings and went on late into the night till finally in the 13th inning, the Twins scored the winning run!  The Twins would go on to sweep the series against the Houston Astros.  
















more of our adventures to come soon...




When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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