Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dear Heather

It is hard to believe that you are gone. Those six months since we found out about your cancer where so full, lovely, and quick. I long to talk to you again so I thought I would write you a letter, maybe you can take a break from riding your moped in heaven to read this novel, I have a lot to say. Please don’t be mad that I stole your blog audience; don’t worry, my letter to you will be a distance second to your incredible posts. As you can imagine, my mind is churning over the future and what that might look like without you. Your memories will always be crystal clear to me. The rawest question I have dealt with lately is, “What do I tell Levi and Ivey about you years down the road, when the memories begin to fade?” How do I capture you in a few stories? How do I represent a life as rich as yours?

It’s remarkable how a person’s life can climax at the end. It’s amazing that someone’s life can shine the brightest during pain. I guess suffering has a way of stripping away the non-essentials. When pondering this question, the things that stand out the most happened in your last few months, not because they are the freshest memories, but because they were the most beautiful. I think of you talking to the radiologist when we were in the hospital for what seemed like the hundredth time to get your fluid drained. You told me that he opened up to you during the procedure and told you he once knew the God you loved, but had become lost. You told me that maybe your fluid was building up so often so that you would have more chances to talk to him. I think about how you were in the middle of excruciating pain, but your prayer was for more time on earth so that you could have lunch again with a friend of yours who wants to know more about the peace you possess. I think about how you were bound and determined to get enough rest to make it to Ivey’s birthday party, but you stayed up all night talking to your father about Jesus as he wrestled with why this was happening to you. I think about when a friend came to serve you while we were staying in the hospital, I heard crying, assuming it was you, only to look up and seeing you with your hand on your friend’s head praying that the Lord would guide her through her troubles. I think about you choosing memories over chemo, and comforting me when I was frightened about that. I think about you calling ALL to fast and pray, not only for your healing, but because you wanted everyone to have greater communion with the Father. I will tell them about a packed celebration service that included people from all walks of life, from all corners of the earth. 

I will tell them these stories; I will tell them about when you shined the brightest. I will tell them about the stories planted on my heart from our life together.

 I will tell them about the many nights in Africa when the power would come back on at 3:00 AM and you would jump out of bed to do some laundry so all 7 of us could have clean clothes. I will tell them about the giant cockroach that crawled up your arm in the process. I will tell them about Morlai, the boy next door who had nothing, and how you cared for him as if he was your own. How you bandaged him when he was injured, and while we couldn’t take him in, you made dang sure that he was cared for well by others. I will tell them about how you were abundantly gracious, how you were quick to say “I’m sorry” even when I was still throwing a tantrum. I will tell them how you gave me opportunities time and time again to step up and lead our family well. I will tell them about how captivating you were the instant anyone met you. I will remind them of the incredible birthday parties you threw in Africa because it was important to you for each kid to have a special day, just for themselves. I will remind them of the safari’s in our compound, how you turned our living room into Candy Land complete with costumes and a life sized board game, I’ll show them pictures of the remote control car track you set up, and the tea party. You made life fun for us, during a hard time. I will tell them about the boy in your class there, who was so hardened by the street. Instead of running away, you took on the challenge. I will tell how he would not open up to anyone and you thought you had lost the battle. I will tell them about the rare smile I saw beaming from his face when he finally passed the grade and ran up to you first to show you his results. That boy has a family now, and I know you opened him up to be loved by others.

You worried so much about not being here for Levi and Ivey. While you are not physically here, believe me Heather, you are here. When Levi sees the world in colors and not numbers, he will see you. When Ivey loves those in her class that are hard to love, she will see you. When Levi does things “his way” and I get so frustrated, I will have to smile, because we will both see you. When Ivey has kids of her own and loves them well, she will see you. When they both are called to do amazingly hard things for Christ, they will say YES, because of you. As they walk through trials of their own, they will handle the suffering with grace and strength because of you.

When they ask me why you had to get sick, I will be able to tell them that we live in a broken world, but that is not the end of the story. I will be able to tell them that in the midst of trouble, He is there, when suffering is at its highest, so is Love. I will be able to tell them that in the trenches of your trials, hearts were changed, chains were broken and people became free, you became free. When they ask me, “why didn’t He heal her?” I will be able to say, “He did, and many others along the way.”

I will tell them of a life well lived, a life full of gusto. When they want to know you again, I will tell them these stories. While the stories will only scratch the surface of who you were, I thank you Heather, for giving me the opportunity to point them towards Christ and say, “See, there is your mother.”

I love you and I will always miss you. The Lord will guide us and we will see you soon. Enjoy the next adventure….

Monday, December 12, 2016

An Update

I have had several people ask for an update but I really haven't known what to say.  I don't want to post blogs of complaints but in order to give an honest update it would be that.

I had another CT scan recently and it showed the cancer is spreading in my liver but the lymph nodes and lung spots seem to be mostly stable.

In the last month or two we all have become more emotional.  I have had several moments of just breaking down in tears.  Just this week I was helping Levi gather up his homework and checking his log book when I suddenly felt so sad.  He was standing by me while I was sitting so I just pulled him to me, laid my head on his chest, and we both cried for several minutes.  It is heartbreaking to think of leaving him and Ivey.

For about two or three weeks now there have been two changes.  One, I have been experiencing more pain.  We are still trying to tweak my medicine to figure out what works the best.  Some don't seem to have any effect while others make me a loopy, nauseated mess.  The other change is that I have been swelling in the abdomen.  The week after Thanksgiving I looked 9 months pregnant so I had to go get what is called a tap.  They drained 3.3 liters of fluid.  There was much relief after that, but the fluid started building back within a few days so I had to go back the following week where they drained 4.7 liters.  It appears that this will now be a weekly event.

Something that has not changed is how kind and thoughtful people are to our family.  We are still receiving sweet notes in the mail, through e-mail, and on Facebook.  I want to express that I appreciate the encouragement so much!  We still have people bringing food and sending gifts and again I am amazed at the generosity of people!  I am so sorry that I have been so slow to send thank you notes! I am slowly chipping away at the list, but I have been spending a lot of time loopy on medicine or asleep on the couch.  Please know that I really do appreciate these things so so much.

Some people have asked about my spiritual life.  My faith in Gods ability to heal me of this cancer has not changed.  However, I viewed the September fast as my sign of whether God would choose to heal me.  When the scan did not show that I was healed I was discouraged and I had to mourn that.  Coming to terms with death is not easy but there is great comfort in knowing where you are going (assuming it is a better place).  Again, I so appreciate those of you who continue to pray for me constantly.  It is so encouraging to have people care about/for you.

Lastly, I wanted to address something bizarre.  I have been shocked and amazed at the amount of people this has reached.   I have people from all walks of my life telling me that they have somehow been linked to this blog and are praying for me.  Sometimes my amazement may be read differently than what I mean.  I don't mind at all that people know about anything that is written here and I very much appreciate people's encouragement.  I sometimes get into funny situations where I have a  suspicion someone knows but I don't just want to break into Debby Downer mode and say, 'Hey did you know I have cancer?'.  So, if you read this blog and feel awkward about saying something to me about it, please don't.  I appreciate every single person who has told me that they heard and were praying and I don't mind answering questions.

We are excited about the holidays and hope that all of you have a great holiday season.  I could not possibly ever say it enough but please know that we are so appreciative of all the amazing people God has surrounded us with during this time.  We are obviously in a bad situation, but it is the best possible bad situation you could have since we are so loved and taken care of.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Photos from Africa

We are back from our trip to Africa and are happy to say that it was a good week.
The hotel was within 5 minutes walking distance to the center.  John and Isatu would get out of school at 1:00 and then come to the hotel to play games and hang out with us.  Albert was taking an extra class so he didn't get out until 5:00 but he would still join us for dinner and we were able to go to the beach on Saturday.   We were so happy to see some of our friends and get to spend time at lunches and dinners with them as well.  On our last day there the TRS church full of kids I love prayed heavily for me.  As usual we are blessed by the management, staff, and kids of TRS.
Thank you so much to all of you who contributed to this trip either directly or through the GoFundMe.  It was  a huge blessing to our family!



Chicago #2


Freetown-the bus to the boat

Freetown-boat dock

Greeting John

Ivey and Isatu

Greeting Isatu


A walk to the market

Nintendo ds and coloring books

observing the street traffic

Albert joins us for dinner with some enviable shades

Playing hide and seek at the hotel

Dinner with Pastor Daniel and family

Dinner at Rema and Bassam's house
Sierra Leone sunsets

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When you leave the key with a friend...

Our family spent the last week in Africa and our army of AMAZING friends came and did all kinds of projects at our house.  We bought this house about 6 months ago with the intention of doing these things ourselves because if you know me, you know I LOVE projects.

However, Murphy's Law kicked in and I found out that I had cancer a little over 3 months ago which has effected the speed of which these things are happening.  So, our incredibly generous and talented friends took this opportunity to do some of those big ones for us.  That included painting the exterier brick, installing an arbor in the back, a new Big Green Egg grill installed in a beautiful table, building a storage building, building a porch in the front, building wooden boxes around our carport posts, lots of landscaping, and lots of beautiful decorating!  It is truly amazing!!!  I was so shocked yesterday and today keep noticing more things as I am walking around in amazement and wonder at the things our 'superfriends/family'  have done for us.

Here are the videos of the week in review;

The reveal:

I will do my best to post photos later in the day.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Scan Results

I have felt so bad that I did not update this blog with the results of my scan.  I posted to Facebook thinking that people who read this are also there but that wasn't very considerate!  So sorry.

My scan results showed no change in the cancer.  It has not regressed or progressed.  I was disappointed about the lack of change in a good direction but I guess I won't complain since there was no growth either.

I so appreciate all of you who have prayed for me.  I hope that this is not discouraging to anyone after all of that praying and fasting.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

September the 8th has arrived... and so has the Church

Oh wow, I can't even begin to express the gratitude I feel towards the hundreds of people posting encouragements on my Facebook page, texting, praying and fasting for me!  I am in awe of the army of people I call the Church that has rallied in support of me. A million thank you's would never be enough. But again thank you so so much!
I decided to post to this blog through the day.  It will just be songs, verses, and etc that have been an encouragement to me that hopefully will be to you as well.

Hillsong United-Oceans:

Kari Jobe- Forever

Matthew 17: Jesus Heals a Boy

14 Jesus and his disciples returned to the crowd. A man knelt in front of him 15 and said, “Lord, have pity on my son! He has a bad case of epilepsy and often falls into a fire or into water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but none of them could heal him.”
17 Jesus said, “You people are too stubborn to have any faith! How much longer must I be with you? Why do I have to put up with you? Bring the boy here.” 18 Then Jesus spoke sternly to the demon. It went out of the boy, and right then he was healed.
19 Later the disciples went to Jesus in private and asked him, “Why couldn’t we force out the demon?”
20-21 Jesus replied:
It is because you don’t have enough faith! But I can promise you this. If you had faith no larger than a mustard seed, you could tell this mountain to move from here to there. And it would. Everything would be possible for you.[a]

1 Kings 18:16-40New International Version (NIV)

Elijah on Mount Carmel

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summonthe people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
But the people said nothing.
22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”
Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The fear of September 8th.

Andrew and I have set the fast date.  We will be fasting on September 8th, the day before my next CT scan.  That scan is scheduled so that we can measure how quickly the cancer is spreading.  In theory, this will allow us more information on how long I have had it and a possible estimate on how long I have here on earth. Theoretically.  However, if God will perform a miracle then there will be no cancer to measure or it will at least have shrunk, and I will sing praises to the high heavens.

I am having short moments of fear.  There are all the 'what if's'.
What if all of you have spent so much time and effort fasting and praying and the answer is no. I certainly don't want to have discouraged anyone.  I have joked that people have been so nice to me that I am not telling anyone if I am healed. I would not truly want to do that. I also don't want to feel like I need to tell people I feel better if I don't.
I fear what my own reaction will be if it is a no. I am concerned that I will be deflated or depressed at that.
We are traveling to Sierra Leone soon and I am so excited to see our African children.  I am also terrified.  The last time I left it was crushing to me in a way that I felt like I might not make it through that time. I don't want to have to leave them again-especially now with this extra burden.

I have been given so much peace in this situation so far and I am so thankful for that.  My prayer right now is that God will grant me that peace even after this scan, even if it shows growth instead of shrinkage of my dumb old liver cancer.

There has been such an outpouring of love towards our family and it has been so encouraging!  I tell you the truth that this experience would not be as endurable without all of you. Thank you to all of you who have stood with me in prayer and fasting and are lined up to do it again on September 8th.  I will be praying through the day for every one of you as well, thanking God for the provision of great friends and asking that he bless you 10 fold for your service to me.

Please watch this sweet video of my Sierra Leonian family praying and singing to God on my behalf(led by Pastor Daniel). Katie Milazzo I cannot thank you enough for sending this to me!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Andrew recently convinced me to watch 'Chef's table'.  It is a Netflix original series on different chefs around the world who have restaurants that have been rated in the top 50 in the world.  It is such a well done, beautiful show.  They don't just focus on the restaurant or the food.  They tell the story of the chef and his/her choices of food.  And, they tell it with beautiful videography.  My favorite one so far has been about Alex Atala.  He is a Brazilian chef who runs the restaurant D.O.M. in São Paulo. In 2012, D.O.M. was rated the 4th best restaurant in the world.  This episode tells the story of how he moved from Brazil to Italy in his teen years to pursue punk rock.  During his time there he worked as a chef in a restaurant to pay the bills.  He fell more in love with cooking than punk rock and decided that he wanted to pursue owning his own restaurant.  However, he was Brazilian and wanted to cook what he grew up with-Brazilian food.  It was hard for him because rice and beans were considered 'poor food' and he wanted to have an upscale dining experience.  He moved back to Brazil and began going out into the Amazon for ingredients and finding the freshest herbs, plants, fish, and other ingredients.  One of the stories they tell is of him going into a village where this little lady had made a dish that was popular in the village.  It had ants in it so when he tasted it he pushed them to the side to try the sauce.  It was delicious to him so he asked her what herbs she had used and she said, "Eat the ant".  He repeated himself and asked again, "no, what are the seasonings?".  She again replied, "Eat the ant".  A third time he asked her and a third time she insisted, "eat the ant!".  He finally eats the Amazonian leaf cutter ant and he said an explosion of flavors happened in his mouth.  Chef Atala now serves gold gilded Amazonian ants in his restaurant.  
I love this series because I love when people push to do what they love and tap into their talents regardless of if it is popular with everyone else.  No one could have foreseen that this man would be able to build up a #4 rated restaurant with ants, beans and rice.  But he did and he now sells it for $200 a plate!  So just chew on that. 

I have been thinking about this show a lot lately.   Separately, I have had many people asking what they can do for me.  My answer is always that I don't need anything other than prayer right now. I feel like most people think that is a 'nothing' answer.  I wanted to say that prayer is the ant.  All the other stuff is sauce flavored by the ant.  What I am DOING is waiting on the Lord to answer the prayers I have sent up. 

I am convinced after doing the research that there is no modern medicine, traditional or alternative, that can save me now.  Some may make my days easier or more comfortable but it will have to be God himself who saves me.  People keep wanting there to be something, anything, that I can do and keep asking what the seasoning is, but sometimes we just have to 'eat the ant'.  

There are so many amazing stories in the Bible.  I would so encourage reading the whole book!  It is full of interesting things.  Below I noted some of the stories that involve fasting. 

1.  Daniel is given a disturbing vision of war and he fasts and prays to the Lord to reveal what it means.  This story is one of the most interesting and enlightening ones.  An angel of the Lord shows up and explains that from the first day Daniel began to pray God had sent this angel out with a message to Daniel.  The angel's 21 day delay in getting there was because he was held up in a spiritual battle with the Prince of Persia.  He only broke free because the archangel Michael came and relieved him.    (Daniel 10)
Here I would like to say to the team of people who have been praying and fasting for me once a week for the last month and a half-Thank you just isn't enough.  I hope that the lack of healing so far has not discouraged you and that you know that the prayers of a righteous man are extremely effective. 

3. Cornelius the Roman Centurion fasts and prays and an angel appears to him. The angel tells him exactly where to go to find Simon Peter.  Separately, Simon Peter is on a rooftop praying in another city and he is given a vision and told that three men are going to come to find him.  He is given instructions to trust them and go with them.  The 3 men find Simon Peter, take him to Cornelius's house where there is 'a large gathering of people', Peter tells them the story of Jesus, and they all get baptized that day.  (Acts 10. vs 28-32 condenses it but I suggest reading the whole of chapter 10)

Those who seek God will find him.  He is, as one of my college professors used to say, a master chess player. He works out intricate and elaborate stories so that not only the person praying is answered but also a 'large gathering of people' is blessed as part of the story.  'Ant sauce', if you will. 

4.  King David sinned later in his life by committing adultery with Bathsheba and she became pregnant.  He then also murdered her husband Uriah to cover it up.  The punishment was that the baby would not live.  King David fasted for days while the child was sick but the baby died never the less.  (2 Samuel 12)

My friend Sally Miller told our small group about the death of her sister several months ago.  She said that her sister’s healing was something that she prayed for more fervently than almost anything else in life so far.  And while her sister did die to this life, God did heal her.  That really stuck with Andrew and I.  I think about it now sometimes. Whether I am healed from cancer and go on to live in this life or if I die and get my new body in heaven, I will be healed.
My friend Sara Sanders Simonetti sent me this link recently and I have watched it several times because I love the part of the song where Kari Jobe sings the words, 'Now death where is your sting? Our resurrected king has rendered you defeated!"


I do feel concerned about how I may take it if my next scan does not show my cancer shrinking or gone.  I am afraid that I will be discouraged.   God has given me so much peace already that I hope he will continue that.
Several people have commented that they are angry about me getting cancer.  I am so absolutely wonderful and awesome in every way, that of all people in the world, I should be the last to have a terminal illness(their words exactly...).  However, I am the perfect candidate.  How much more sad would this be for someone who did not have the hope of the next life? How much worse for the children of a single mother? How much worse for someone who has no one to help them with meals, transportation to the hospital, or money for the pharmacy?  I am so blessed with the wealth of America and friends who have jumped in to help me left and right.  My kids have a great father and plenty of other friends and family who can stand in my place.  If I do not go on to live here on earth, I will live again.   I do not want for anything.  

I have another CT Scan scheduled for Friday, September 9th.  My Dr. will use this along with my original scan to measure the speed at which this cancer is growing/spreading.   I will be fasting on September 8th to ask God to heal me completely.  If you believe that the Bible is in fact true stories-which I do-you must come to the conclusion that God hears, and answers.  He may not give you a yes, and there may be a delay in time for some reason, but he always hears and considers the prayer.  I do not know what answer God will give but if I were to ask anything of anyone it is to please please join me in 'eating the ant'.  This is the only thing I have faith in that will allow me to be a help to Andrew and a parent to my children.