"For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made

in the secret place, when I was woven together

in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my

unformed body; all the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be."

Psalm 139: 13-16

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Chicken Soup

So it's been two months since all of this craziness has unfolded in our lives. It's been a whole thing. Turns out, being told you likely just have months to live is slightly traumatic, and I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks reconciling the trauma, and finding answers to the question of where do I go from here?

So first, the medical update. On the PET scan, I had both a nodule and multiple lymph nodes in my chest that "lit up". Two oncologists, and a radiologist looked at the scans, and believed there was no chance it could be anything but cancer. As they were scheduling the biopsy, a second radiologist looked at the scans because the nodule is in a difficult place to biopsy. He enlisted the help of a pulmonologist to look at everything. The pulmonologist was the one who first brought up that he thought there was a chance that it could be histoplasmosis. Thankfully from there, I got put on a fast track to see both infectious disease, and the pulmonologist. A biopsy of three of the lymph nodes that were adjacent to my airways revealed one that was positive for histoplasmosis, and the rest for inflammation. The pulmonologist assured me that all should be well- but I still needed to follow up in two months for another scan, because of the nodule that is present which we were unable to biopsy. This is the waiting, and where I've been living for the past couple months. It has been a very strange place to be.

I was relieved, but there is still "cautious optimism". I have lived for four years now in the wake of cancer. I have had trouble looking at pictures from "before cancer". I look at the smiling person I was, and there is such a deep ache in my chest over what "she" didn't know. There is grief over the way it was "supposed" to be. Though my hair has grown back, and the miracles of modern prosthetics preserve my silhouette, and by all "appearances" I am well.....It hasn't ever been "over", and it never will be.  It happened. I will always have scars, follow ups, and symptoms that make me second guess whether or not it's "just" an ache. Beyond the physical reality, is what I consider to be the most difficult part of cancer- the emotional wounds. What this experience revealed to me is how much I have spent of the last four years trying to move "past" cancer. Trying to get back to what I was before. Stuck, emotionally in the mode of survival. I ran full steam ahead during treatment, and continued to do so once treatment ended, because let's face it- this is hard. It is much easier for me to remain strong when I dive into work, my kids, my hobbies- anything to keep from having to feel. I can't cry- I "have to be strong", and I don't have time to fall apart. There is probably something prideful about being able to embrace the hardship, and deal. It's part of what has served me so well in Emergency Medicine. But the pain, and the grief of the experience leave such deep wounds. Wounds that have made me a little broken inside, and I haven't allowed them to heal. I just look at my blog (and by that, I mean the lack of blogging) to see the evidence. When I write, I process. I allow myself to feel, and invite others into the process. I get to shine light on the truth of what's inside me, and let the Lord speak His truth over it. I have been running from these wounds for a long time. This whole experience has ripped the band-aids placed so carefully over them completely off. It's time to let them breathe. This involves admitting that I am a little broken- ok, a lot broken, and I am ok with that.

  It takes a lot of effort to continue running when you are injured. It's exhausting. I have lived too long in the striking the pavement of the valley of the shadow of death....and although the truth is we all journey in this same valley, the difference is where your eyes are focused. On the shadow cast by the mountain, or the One who holds our life in His hands, covered by the shadow of His wings.

This past week was my two month follow up. I had another scan of my lungs, and met with the pulmonologist again. I had hoped that the nodule, and lymph nodes would just be healed and gone, but unfortunately they look the same, to mildly larger. Could it be cancer and histoplasmosis? Maybe....but my symptoms are better, and looking at the whole picture he assured me that there is most likely nothing to worry about. While the lymph nodes should eventually heal, in some cases the nodule will never go away almost like a "scar" from the infection. In 9 months we will re-scan again to see if things have changed. This is of course, is good news..... The difficult part is when the next day, I read the radiology report which says "increase in size of adenopathy, likely metastatic". The words leave a sour, awful pit in my stomach. They carry an all too familiar weight. There is some temptation to give in to the fear, and jump back on the roller coaster.

So then, what's a girl to do? The only answer I have, is to pray. To continue to pray. Because remember a few weeks ago? I had "just a few months". We PRAYED. YOU prayed. And then- prayers were answered. Some may call it a coincidence. That it was fungus all along. But then we miss the opportunity to give credit to a completely amazing God. One who is capable of miracles. One who longs to give us good things. If Jesus can turn water into wine...He can turn cancer into fungus. Amen?

Using my medical training and perspective, I know that we have to look at the whole picture. We have a biopsy of one of the nodes that did show histoplasmosis. I have an expert that is telling me there is nothing to worry about. I'm not going to lie- I can't help but have flashbacks from my original diagnosis...I was told for a while that we would "watch" the lump. For 9 months actually.
I could let this make me scramble, push, fret, and be anxious all in the name of advocating for my health. But, I have a peace about where I am, and I trust that for now, the right thing to do is wait. No matter what the outcome is, the truth is that we are all on a path toward our eventual physical death. Cancer or not, tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us. I could let fear motivate me, fuel my anxiety over what may or may not be happening in my body. But Jesus asks us to trust Him completely. He is sovereign, He is good, He has been faithful, and He holds all things together. My life is no less in His hands yesterday, today, or tomorrow, no matter what choice I make, or how many months I have to wait for more answers. I don't have to ride the roller coaster. I can can keep my feet firmly planted on the solid ground of His word, watching the cars plummet down, and soar back up again, all the while knowing I am secure because I have a hope, that is an anchor for my soul. 

So I am taking steps to support my continued healing both physically and emotionally. I am in a place where I can be thankful for this experience because I believe it has helped me to understand how deep the wounds were, and how desperately I needed to tend to them. Jesus loves us too much to leave us broken. His desire is always for restoration, and healing, but it is a two way street, and first we have to trust Him enough with our pain to let Him into it. So, in obedience, I will slow down, sip the tea, soak in the Word, allow the tears to fall, and my eyes to lift upwards. So thankful that we serve a God of miracles, and tender mercies.

It's time to heal. Chicken soup, anyone?



For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
Psalm 63:7

Sunday, April 8, 2018


I never expected the loss to feel like this. To be actual physical pain. The kind that squares itself in the center of your chest, presses down hard and causes waves of grief to come rolling out of your eyes and spilling their salty oceans on your cheeks. Grief is kind of like a puppy.... It doesn't understand rules, and rarely behaves. It has a way of pulling at the corners of blankets you’ve thrown over previous spaces of grief, shaking it back and forth until there’s just enough uncovered to make you feel again. Oh that four legs, a wagging tail, and the softest ears could undo me like this. He always there, quietly waiting for my hand to reach over and absently twirl the finest silk he had to offer. The greatest ache is in the new quiet...the absence of his nails clicking on the floor, the thunder of his paws as he raced after me down the stairs. The thud of his body as he curled up next to my bed, and the deep sigh as he settled into “his spot”. The throaty low moan-growl and squinty eyes when you dared to finally end an all out massage session, or when the kids were tucked into bed and he would let you know it was “his turn”. He was never a loud dog- he only howled when there was a stranger coming down the driveway, because that was his job. Other than that he was quiet companionship. Warmth. Unconditional love. 

When we lost Duke, we were in the middle of cancer. Of a summer of tragedy and trauma. It was so sad...but it feels different now. Looking back, I don’t think I had time to fully grieve him. I couldn’t. We were already barely hanging on. But Chase...he lived forever in golden years. He was there through so much. Through all of my "growing up". We got him just a few months after Duke. Knowing that Duke needed a buddy, and with the endless time and energy of newlywed kids we signed up to be fosters for a rescue organization, Golden Retrievers In Need (GRIN). Our first foster came quickly- they needed a family with medical experience to care for a sweet girl who had been hit by a car. Abby came to us unable to walk- some toes amputated, a deep infection in her leg, and an external fixator device holding her other leg together. She healed, and was eventually adopted by the perfect family for her. Before she left us though, I got another phone call from GRIN….they had two dogs that needed placement. One of them was a “wild dog” who they had named “Billy”....wild Bill. He had been picked up on the run. He was found wandering on the side of the road, and after a while at the shelter, no one had claimed him. I remember saying “I’ll take the wild one”. I met one of the volunteers, and loaded him up in the car. When we got home, he was so crazy he could barely hang on the end of a leash in the driveway. I remembered thinking what have I gotten myself into! But we brought him into the backyard, and he met Duke...the two of them were instant buddies. Later that evening I was lying on the couch. “Billy” hopped up onto the couch with me, stretched out his gangly adolescent dog body along my side, and stuffed his nose into my neck. He chose me. I remember looking over at Joe…”This one is staying with me…” I said… He laughed. I think he already knew that. Billy, of course, was Chase. We named him that because from that day on, he was never far behind me. He is the first and only dog that’s ever been “mine”. Oh how lucky I was to have picked the wild one, and in return, he picked me back.

Losing him...just makes me reflect on everything he saw me through. The normal stuff of life- every morning cup of coffee. Every time I loaded the dishwasher. Watching and waiting. Every time I walked in the door from a long shift in the ER. Every load of laundry carried with him at my heels. His eyes gazing over the edge of the counter as he quietly waited for me to fill up the water dish. Bursting underneath the garage door to run to greet me at the car. The long runs he would accompany me on. For a while he would go 7 or 8 miles...eventually he slowed down and told me he was done running with me, but it didn’t stop him from getting excited every time I pulled out his collar. He would come running if he heard his dog tags clinking together. He was there for the big stuff too...he was here when I lost our first baby to miscarriage and sobbed myself to sleep in his fur. He was there when we eventually brought home our Addie, and I cried because I couldn’t imagine how I was going to feed a kid AND the dogs (insert laughing face here!!!!). Through these 9 years of becoming and being a mother. He was there the day we found out Meg would be born with complications...and the day we brought her home too. For first steps, and first days of school. He was there when I got diagnosed with cancer, and the day we lost our Duke. He was on snuggle detail, lying quietly with me during the chemo days when I couldn't get out of bed. His faithful, unconditional love saw us through. 

There is something about losing a creature who has lovingly existed to bear witness to the stuff of life, was there for every moment, even and especially, the quiet ones. The moments he laid at my feet while I rocked a baby in the middle of the night. Watching, and waiting his turn. The moment I unwrapped the bandages on my chest for the first time and quietly sobbed in front of the bathroom mirror, standing guard by the door, ready and waiting for me to need him. Or the loud ones, where we sang happy birthdays- all our attention focused on the birthday girl, while he sang with his eyes, and quietly melted into the happy landscape….but his eyes were on me. Watching, and waiting his turn. Unconditionally loving just being with me. What a gift.

Don’t get me wrong...he was still a dog. He once ate two dozen cookies after I dared to turn my back for a second. I left the door to the garbage can open too many times to count...and too many times I cleaned up dissected bits of garbage covered in dog slobber. He adventured to the pond to swim in the summer, and returned afterwards too many times covered in something dead. He stole socks, ate crumbs, and could clear a room with a special kind of dog fart. "UGH Chase!!!!" was an expression heard frequently in our house. 

He began to decline a couple of months ago. We brought Strax home in November. I think he waited until he was solidly bonded with our family before he began to let go. A changing of the guard. I knew his time was getting close. He was losing weight. I was away a couple of weeks ago and Joe called to say he thought Chase might be dying, but He hung on until I got home...and rallied to spend the last couple of weeks with me. But the last two days he sat at the bottom of the steps when I went to bed, unable to climb them. We knew it was time yesterday after he couldn’t eat, was getting weaker, and couldn’t even hold any water down. Medication wasn’t working, and he was suffering. The vet found a large tumor in his abdomen. Yesterday morning, I knew it was time. Yesterday, was April 7th. The 4th anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. Maybe God knew I already had enough “sad days” penciled in on the calendar of my heart.

I can’t help but look to Jesus as I grieve this incredible loss. He created these amazing creatures. I believe he created dogs with the amazing capacity to reflect some of His nature. The part that is with you, watching and rejoicing just because you are you. Unconditionally loving us- in spite of every imperfection, and even if we aren’t paying attention to Him. Longing for our affection in return. Companionship- constant, and devoted. 

The Bible isn’t very specific on what happens to animals when they die, but it does tell us that He cares for every creature. That there will be animals in heaven. I can’t presume to know the design He had for animals, but I know how much He loves us, and we are told that in Heaven, there is no more mourning. No sadness or sorrow. Only joy. I know He is a God of restoration, reconciliation, relationship and reunion. I can only imagine that part of our joy and hope we have in Heaven, is to be restored to completeness, to be reconciled to him, and to be reunited with the relationships that have brought us so much love and joy on earth. On earth, as it is in Heaven. When I finally get to enter heaven, my greatest joy will be finally seeing the face of my savior. Of getting to embrace my Heavenly Father. But maybe, just maybe, there will be someone else watching, wagging, and waiting his turn. 

Rest in Peace Chase

Adopted October 2006, and faithfully loved until April 7th, 2018

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God”

Luke 12:6

Snuggling together in heaven now.