Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review (aka our Christmas Letter)

For those that can't read the tiny little is what the letter says I wanted to put the original on here as well:
Merry Christmas!! I hope this letter finds you well. I don’t typically write a Christmas letter. I think it’s a great idea, and I’ve started one several years, but just never finished. This year, however, has been an interesting one, and I thought I would recap it for those of you who made it on the Christmas card list, haha!
As 2011 rang in this year it didn’t take long for us to know it wasn’t going to be our average year of the usual things. Nate started off with an ER visit that turned into extended stay accommodations at Parkview Whitley, our local hospital. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and had severe inflammation and blockage in his small intestine.  After his stay he came home and was off work for about 6 weeks in which time he went through numerous test, and drugs to try and combat the pain and bowel issues he was having. He continued with drugs and diet changes through September, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
January also brought the celebration of Parker’s 9th birthday; we can hardly believe he is so old. He is doing very well in school and just made the “A” honor roll for the first trimester of 4th grade. He’s getting to the age of wanting his own independence a little more, and becoming a little stinkier. He once again participated in the Dekalb Baron’s summer basketball camp under direction of his Uncle Jon, and for the first time went to the Columbia City Eagles basketball camp this October. He’s getting pretty good, but we may have a conflict with which team he likes more!
In March we celebrated Maxwell’s 4th birthday, and my… um, 29 again birthday. Max is growing like a weed I can hardly keep up with pants and shoes. He is all boy and ornery as ever. He began his 2nd year of pre-school this year, and thankfully is very good at school, and enjoys it very much.
April brought an addition to the family. After a fun family vacation to Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells and a day trip to Chicago Legoland we became members of the dog owner’s club. We bought a 6 week old golden retriever and named him Bentley. He went from fitting into a 6x6 in. tile on our kitchen floor to being a 57lb 9 month old. He’s defiantly Nate’s baby, but after a few rough days in the beginning he has become a part of the family.
May was warm and wonderful. We spent a lot of time playing outside, but because of all the snow we had over the winter the kids had an extra-long school year and didn’t get out until the 9th of June.
In June we decided to get passes to our city pool, we spent quite a few days through-out the month pool side and the kids enjoyed it very much. Towards the last week of June I found a lump in my breast and so began a new journey for our family.
In July we celebrated Caedence’s 6th birthday. She began 1st grade this year and although she is very smart she enjoys the social time at school rather than the academics. She has lost 4 teeth in the last few months and has become a lot more girlie over the last year doing her hair and painting her nails are beginning to trump playing with toys on some days. We also celebrated Nate’s 33rd birthday, as you can see he keeps getting older  J, and I became an Auntie on my side of the family for the first time as my brother and wife had their first baby on July 26th(It’s also Caedy’s b-day). As July progressed with more Dr. appts. for me we learned on July 22nd that I had breast cancer.  July 27th I had a complete mastectomy.
August brought a month of healing and more Dr. appts. we were unexpectedly taken care of and blessed by family and friends far and wide. Our niece, Marissa, graciously gave up her last month of summer to come and stay with us and help as I recovered. Towards the end of the month I had another surgery for a port so that I could begin chemotherapy. As all this was going on Nate started to feel the pains of blockage and inflammation again.
September brought us to Hannah’s birthday just a few days after she began life as a 2nd grader she turned 8 years old. She is the instigator of the bunch but is turning into a good little athlete and loves all sports. Although they don’t recognize 2nd grade with an official honor roll Hannah also is getting all A’s in school so far this year, and despite a few academic struggles in first grade is doing really well at keeping up with her grade level. We had a small fundraiser thanks to a family friend on Sept. 4th and September 7th was my first scheduled chemotherapy infusion, although, Nate apparently didn’t like all the attention I was getting so he decided another trip to the hospital ER would make him stand out a little more. However this time we didn’t go to one, but 3 hospitals before he landed at Parkview Main in Ft. Wayne for a 2 week stay on Sept. 6th. This time we had a few more opinions than that of the GI doctor he acquired during his January visit, and Nate ended up have a bowel resection on Sept. 13th. He was released from the hospital Sept. 20th one day before my 2nd scheduled chemo treatment. Although Marissa had left and headed back to Arizona we were again taken care of by the grace of God.
October brought more healing and more chemo, and another blessing in the form of a young lady named Lisa who is for lack of a better term our on-call nanny. She has been great with our kids whenever we need her. We were also able to get away over night with the kids, thanks to Lisa’s help for a one night stay at Kalahari. It wasn’t our typical family get-a-way, but the kids enjoyed it and deserved it as they have really endured a lot. Our awesome neighbors put on an amazing fundraising event for us, and although we would have rather done it a little differently Nate and I tried to enjoy the time off we had together while he healed.
Nate was finally able to go back to work the second week in November after a total of 10 weeks off, and I continued on with chemo. We’ve had a few little hiccups along the way with my treatment, but for the most part it has been going as expected, side effects and all. We were also able to host our very first Thanksgiving at home with my parents visiting from Colorado, and my siblings.
So far December has been rather uneventful considering all the other things that have happened this year, but among other things we’ve learned to expect the unexpected, grown, and been blessed beyond what we could have ever imagined. Our families, and friends have stood beside, behind and in front of us through-out this year and we wouldn’t have made it as well as we have without that support.
God has brought us to a place that had we known about we would have said we’d never make it through, but He’s given us the strength and encouragement we needed to do so. Although every day is a new day to get through we are taking them one at a time, and know that there is a bigger plan. We can only pray that we are glorifying Him as we walk through this journey. We continue to be grateful for everything we have been given, and as we enter this season we remember He gave His only son because he loved us and would only bring us to this place because he loves us.
As we move into next year I will continue chemo and then radiation around Feb. At some point we will talk about reconstruction which will be another surgery and recovery, but probably more towards the fall of next year.
Much love and many blessings to each and every one of you! If you have prayed for us, brought us a meal, brought us groceries,  made a donation, watched our kids, cleaned our house, walked our dog, given us a care package or anything else we just want to take a moment to thank you. We know we will never be able to repay all the people in our lives who have stepped up, but we plan to pay it forward whenever we have the chance. We love you and are so grateful for you all.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

God Bless Us...Everyone!

Merry Christmas everyone. I know New Year's is the time to reflect and think about the year that has past, but tonight as I set the presents out, most of them so generously given to us by strangers, I can't help but think about the last year. God set us on a path at the beginning of this year that we thought was hard, but after a little while we learned to cope. Later in the year God threw us another curve ball, this one a littler harder to deal with and a little harder to just "cope" with, as we were still dealing with the first stumbling block of Nate's Crohn's Disease we began to try and deal with cancer. As each of those first days progressed we we're given a new aspect of this disease to deal with, and even with love and support pouring in I didn't think this was something I could do. I was right (I love to saying that, but not in this case)!!
Each and everyday has been an challenge some good and some bad... although its technically Christmas Day already during the day today I have been very emotional. I woke up not feeling well, and trying to deal with that just made me feel worse. I finally got the energy to get up and get going and all I could do was cry most of the day. I'm sure it is due to the hormonal changes happening in my body, but it is not how I had planned on feeling on Christmas Eve, and so it goes, it is not how I had planned on spending a better part of 2011, but its also not my plan I should focus on. So as I get ready to go to sleep, probably to be woken up in a few hours by excited kids who can't wait to begin ripping paper off gifts I am thankful, thankful for the gift that God has given us, thankful for the strangers who have given to us so unselfishly, and thankful for the lessons I've learned this year, the blessings I've received and the people who have surrounded us with love and support. Merry Christmas, and God Bless You All!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

God just hears a melody

On my way home yesterday from breakfast with two ladies who are also fighting breast cancer I heard the Amy Grant song Better than a Hallelujah. I've always liked Amy Grant, but don't listen to her music regularly other than what is on the radio, and I've heard this song many times before, but never really paid attention to the lyrics. As I was rethinking the conversations from breakfast filled with comparisons of struggles and triumphs the chorus to this song really stuck in my head. I'm grateful for a God who hears praise even in the midst of our messes and miseries especially since over the last several months I haven't been as initially praising as I should be. Better than a Hallelujah sometimes....

We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah