Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Will Not Be Broken - Faith No Matter What

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." - Psalm 118:8

I apologize for taking so long to get this blog out. I had written an entry this weekend to update you on the results of Johnny's CAT scan. The text mysteriously disappeared as I went to copy and paste it from WORD to this website. Talk about kicking and screaming! I started it at midnight Saturday and it took me two hours to do. It was a very emotionally charged one, so tears were streaming down my face the entire time I wrote it. And suddenly it was gone.

Well, that of course kept me up another hour trying to search through my computer trying to figure out where it could possibly have gone. Then when I finally gave up and went to bed I couldn't go to sleep wracking my brain. I got up again and searched the computer more. I didn't get to sleep until about 4am.

Maybe God had a better message to send you through my typing fingers. So here goes take two.

Thank all of you who took the time out of your life to remember ours and pray for Johnny's CAT scan to be a positive report. It was not to be. His tumor has increased by 30% and the adrenal gland site has also grown. They decided to NOT do his scheduled chemo session because of the poor results on the tumor. They are going to try another chemo which helps only 20% of patients and it only offers several weeks of longetivity beyond the prognosis. It is a milder chemo with less side effects.

Johnny's blood count was lower than they needed it to be for a chemo session, so we got a reprieve for this week. Since the prognosis was so grave and the doctor even mentioned a point of no treatment at all for quality of life - I thought it an opportune moment to bring up the possibility of alternative medicine. I had done some research on Mayo Clinic's website and was happy to find that they were starting to explore other methods to use in conjunction with traditional treatments.

I recently crossed paths with a Chinese doctor , who I discovered when I saw a sign for "Reflexology" in his window while driving by. I whirled the car aroun in a u-turn to go get some information. He was available right then and I made an appointment for a reflexology foot massage (one of those heaven on earth moments). During the session we talked in broken English (and pencil and pad drawings) and I told him about Johnny and the diagnosis.

He told me that his wife had lung cancer 4 years ago and that she was treated with chemotherapy and radiation along with a chinese herbal regimen at a hospital in Beijing. She is still alive today. He believes the combination of Western and Eastern medicine is the key to achieving the greatest success in treating a patient. The difference with combining forces is less side effects from the chemo and a stronger immune system to battle the damage from treatments, and to multiply our bodies own "cancer-killer" cells that we already have. Consequently, the patient has more stamina and strength.

He asked me to come back for another visit so he could explain and show me what he was talking about. So I returned and sat down with him at his desk. He described the tallest mountain in China and drew me a picture of it with the snow caps on top. Then he showed me right below the snow area where hundreds of herbs and mushrooms grow that are watered by the melting snow. These are harvested and are used in China especially to treat cancer but also for many other ailments due to their many medicinal properties.

He brought out this bag of herbs and told me that when Doctors write a prescription at Beijing Hospital this is what the patient receives. The "medicine" is prepared by boiling the bag of herbs in a special ceramic pot for an hour. The liquid is poured into two glasses. The pot is filled with water again. One more hour of boiling. Two more glasses of liquid. Next he brought out a box of 10 packets. The powder was concentrated Reishi mushroom powder which the Chinese consider the "king of herbs" in their country. Part of the mushroom's properties in dealing with tumors is that it shrivels tumors and prevents them from sticking to an organ's wall. It also boosts the immune system into a weapon of mass destruction.

It has been several weeks since this meeting but I have told Johnny about it, and though he was interested he still wanted to wait to see what results came from the CAT Scan. That morning as we set in the Doctor's office hearing the discouraging news, I leaned over and whispered in his ear "Can I ask now about the chinese herbs?" He didn't hesitate to say yes. So we told the Doctor what we knew. The Doctor was alot more receptive than I thought he would be. He mentioned Mayo Clinic's great interest in research and finding the cure for the incurable. Lung cancer is such a cancer. Especially Stage 4.

The synchronicity of coincidences appearing in our lives lately steering us towards alternative solutions is interesting. Two separate individuals have brought us information about the healing power of kambucha mushrooms just in the last several days. I was handed a magazine at the health food store with a cover story on the medicinal benefits of maitake, reishi, and shiitake mushrooms. Could their be magic in mushrooms? Let us know what you think. Let us know if you have information.

We have decided to take a leap of faith and try the tea. We are curious if it will boost Johnny's blood count on the test he will have done Friday. We will never give up fighting - never! never! never!

But let's go back to the day of the office visit, the discouraging news, and getting our faith back on track after a left hook from the devil. When we returned home we both kind of walked around in circles. We knew there were alot of people waiting on our call. Especially Scarlett. We really didn't say much during the ride home. We were still in shock after our great expectations of seeing a miracle. What happens to our faith when God sends an answer we don't want to hear??

I walked back to find Johnny sitting in his old office chair. It used to be his seat of power when we were "rocking and rolling" in our successful drywall business. Phones would ring, walkie talkies would chirp, fax machines would roll, printers would fly, file cabinets would overflow, and in/out boxes were stacked high. Now the office was silent and empty except for the pictures and books of Florida State Seminoles, Johnny posing with his favorite coach Bobby Bowden and friends, and the many relics of Johnny's Southern heritage he is so proud of.

I looked at Johnny stooped in the chair staring at the floor. The ravages of chemo and the disease left their toll on his now frail body. He has straggly wisps of grey hair left on his head, his face was gaunt, bony protrusions show through his teeshirt where his strong shoulders and back used to be. His muscles have atrophied. He looked up at me standing in the doorway and gave me a half grin. He patted his lap for me to come sit like in the old days. Before I stepped forward we just locked eyes.

I realized when I look at him, I look beyond his damaged body, to the soul of the man that stole my heart 33 years ago. I'll never forget the day we locked eyes in a crowded room full of people for the first time. He was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen with piercing green eyes, dark glossy hair. and the body of a greek god. He looked like Elvis in his early Vegas days. When he smiled at me I knew I was hooked. All the girls in my dorm swooned over him. But I was the lucky one he asked out to dinner.

He had a Southern drawl that made me melt and an adventurous spirit that excited me about life. A short time before our wedding he took me for a ride in his brand new Mach I Ford down some lonesome country roads near his home in Campbellton, Florida. He pulled to a stop in the middle of nowhere with his hand on the stick shift. He looked at me and smiled that "Elvis smile" with his curled lip and asked "Want a thrill baby?" I smiled back and answered "Go for it!"

Wheels squealed from smoking tires that sped down the road at breakneck speed. I was thrilled! And it's been that way for ever since. We celebrate our 33rd anniversary on October 4th. It has been an adventure in life I would have never missed, but there were some times of holding on extra tight for dear life! However - I can say I have truly lived.

As I walked towards Johnny sitting in the office tears started rolling down both our faces. I straddled him in the chair and squatted down to hug him - I couldn't sit because his body is too fragile to hold me. He pressed his face into my chest - my half chest, left from the ravages of my own cancer treatments. We kissed. Our kisses are so different now. They mean so much more than they did before. They are fragile kisses - like butterfly kisses. They are so filled with a love that is redefined by tragedy.

We started talking then. We praised God and determined we would not let this break our faith. We determined that God was still in control. We knew that though we did not understand the answer at the moment that God knew and was working in the wings. Our greatest concern was telling Scarlett. She has so much going on, as her photography business soars to greater heights, we did not want this to throw her off course. She trusts the Lord in all things and we did not want the devil to hit her with doubt when she heard the CAT scan report. She has such a fragile and tender heart about her Daddy. He is her rock and she knows he always "has her back" in life. We hesitated telling her until she returned from the convention in California but we knew we had to keep her in the loop.

I jumped in the car to go tell her in person but she called before I could get there so I had to tell her on the phone. I think by the grace of God she was so busy preparing for her second shooter's arrival from Los Angeles (the marvelous Jen), the wedding coming up in Jeckyll Island they would be shooting together, shopping and packing for her trip, juggling her new "customer consierge" Rachel, her new services for other photographers where they can come "Spend a Day With Scarlett," and the whole whirlwind which is now her life - God has kept her too busy to dwell on the latest news about Johnny. It wasn't until later that she called me and cried.

So how do you hold on to hope when things look hopeless? You surrender all to God.The first thing Johnny wanted to do was hold an immediate "holy healing session." But he did not want it for himself. He wanted to pray only for all those we know suffering illnesses and cancer. We know so many! Everyone needs a miracle not just us. And as I was reminded by my Mother when I called to tell her we didn't get our miracle, she said "You didn't get your miracle YET!"

Those six words blazed themselves into my mind as I struggled to get my perspective right and keep my faith in order. YET. I didn't get it YET. It really made me think of the story where the man is up on top of his roof in a flood as the water keeps rising and he is SURE that God will rescue him. A rowboat comes along to help but he sends them away saying "God will save me." A helicopter comes along to help and he sends it away saying "God will save me." The waters finally rise and drown him so he is now up in heaven at the pearly gates and very mad at God. "Why didn't you save me?" he screams at God. God calmly looks back at him and says "I sent a boat and a helicopter."

And so it is the answers come to us in unexpected ways. It makes me wonder about the chinese doctor that was placed in our path. He arrived in our lives weeks ago. He has patiently waited. We were not ready to consider th ealternative step until the CAT scan results. But now - at the moment we are ready - this solution waits in place. I know that God is the great orchestrator of all things. I know that all things work together for good to those who love God. I know when we do not give up and keep trusting God He speaks to us. It is the getting still, the quieting of our hearts - even in the midst of raging storms of doubt - that we can hear Him speak and guide us.

And I am serving notice right here and now to the devil "Get thee from me Satan!" Go! Go! Go! We are conquering cancer with the sword of the spirit. This battle is already won. The cancer wants the body and the devil wants the soul. But it will never happen. The victory is ours despite whatever outcome is God's will. I have listened to so many friends, family, and colleagues over the years and despite some horrific challenges people have faced including loss of child, parent, spouse, home, hope, and tragedies like rape, incest, abuse, addiction, handicaps, I have ALWAYS encouraged everyone to KEEP THE FAITH no matter what!

I realize how hard that is to do at times. And now, here in our own huge challenge I must take my own advice. I must never lose faith or forget how powerful my God is. If I can tell everyone else to do it - I can do it too. Our God is an awesome God. He is there in all things great and small. He cares for each of us as if we were the only living creature on earth. And yet, He still has time to make the universe run on schedule, down to something as miniscule as a worm giving birth.

Yes, He reminded me of this the other day on my dog walk as I stood waiting for Lucky and Rhett to move on. As I stared down at the sidewalk I noticed a worm writhing on the cement then leave a tiny puddle behind. As I continued staring mindlessly I suddenly noticed the puddle moved. Now I was fascinated like a child, and stooped down to see what was moving it. I saw a tiny hairlike thread that grew RIGHT BEFORE MY EYES into an inch long worm that slithered away. I believe God was sending me a message to remember that all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed. Mighty things can grow from it.

And so, our faith is renewed and restored even through new levels that we walk through. We thank our Lord for His tender mercies and we thank all of you for standing in the gap for us as we continue this journey to victory. We wish for each of you, the faith of a mustard seed that will bloom and grow into a brilliant power to light up your life and sustain you through your own trials. Never let go of God's hand. He walks with you through it all. He carries you on His shoulders during tough times. It is then you look down and see just one set of footprints in the sand.

Blessings and love from Johnny, Scarlett, and me.....



Anonymous said...

I am praying for your family... thank you for sharing your story so intimately; it is inspiring and humbling all at once.

Elizabeth Bowdren Photography said...

I am praying right now asking God for the words to say even though my lips only know crying.

I completely believe in alternative medicine. And if you think of the totality of the world practicing, you realize it isn't so "alternative" afterall. It's the norm.

I'm going to help you research those herbs. It's the very least I can do.

I feel astounded and inspired by your faith and sheer perseverance. I like what my wise Dad said about how easy it is to sing praises when things are going good, but what about with bad news too? And you two are the embodiment of THAT kind of faith and love for God.

I remember early in my christian path when Scarlett was the life-force for my new passion for God, and I read this article about Jeremy Camp through her. It talked about his wife and when she passed away to cancer. Right after she died in the hospital Jeremy immediately started singing and praising God.... PRAISING God. I couldn't even begin to fathom that. I even told Scarlett "if THAT'S what loving Him and having utter faith looks like I don't think I will ever get there!!"

But the amazing thing is that the closer you get toward our Heavenly Father the more distant THIS world seems and unattached it becomes.... knowing that what you love will be seen again in even more glorious ways than our imagination can fathom in God's Kingdom. You realize nothing is really yours-- it's only borrowed from the Lord. And He gives it all to us simply to bring us joy! How beautiful is THAT!

So (I hope you didn't take any of that the wrong way)... I just wanted to give you hope in God's Promise. I love that you're taking the alternative path, and I would love to help you in any way I can Aunt Rene.... I really mean that. I love you both so very very much. And I believe in the good of this situation.... and that God WILL prevail!

Anonymous said...

Rene, Johnny and Scarlett,
Reading your always very inspirational postings, it encourages me to have a stronger faith that God does answer prayers. It may not always be the answer we want, but that He's trying to open us up to what He has to show us. Keep the faith. I hope you see and hear the messages He has for you. We will continue to lift each of you up in prayer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update! I have been checking daily! I will continue to pray and continue to believe that Johnny will be healed!

Thank you for your sweet, sweet words!

Annie- nashville

Ginny said...

2 Chronicals 20:17 says, "But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will fight the battle for you"

...always praying for you all


Ashley said...

You're all in my prayers!

Jaren said...

I'm a little late in reading and responding....but the part about your 33-year thrill ride is so beautiful...and, seemingly, a blessed miracle in and of itself...I can't wait until October 4th...

With thoughts and prayers,