Archive for October, 2009


October 30, 2009

Yesterday we met with our oncologist.  It turns out that nothing is cut and dried when it comes to medicine.  Though it has a deep basis in science, it still is an art that people practice.  Mary Jo has some decisions to make concerning the next step in treating her breast cancer.  None of the options are exciting or easy.  All of them promise to decrease the chances of the cancer  recurring.  Standard treatment for this breast cancer involves 6 months of chemotherapy. Another option  involves a clinical trial–not of an experimental chemotherapy, but to see whether or not that standard treatment could be shortened to two months and involve only 1 of the standard 2 drugs.  She is a candidate for this clinical trial.

As human beings created in God’s image we are marvelous and mysterious organisms.  Our bodies are a complex conglomeration of atoms, molecules, cells, organs, hormones, tissues, etc.  With that complexity, cut and dried simply isn’t possible.  So we once again step out in trust that God will use whatever decision is made for our good and God’s glory.

No News

October 27, 2009

No real news to report on this front.  It’s a matter of waiting.  We have an appointment with the oncologist on Thursday.  We hope to hear then about the results of the testing and get a better idea of what the treatment might be and when it might begin.  In the meantime Mary Jo worked three days last week and plans to work the three day week this week with WEA convention on Thursday and Friday.  

Our daughter, Kjerstin, and her family had hoped to come this weekend, but they had illness in their family, and so they stayed  in Sioux Falls.  It was disappointing, but it was in everyone’s best interest.  They may try to come in a couple of weeks.

The waiting days are difficult.  We’ll find out if the “not knowing” is harder than the”knowing.”  This is a time for leaning on God and God’s desire for health and wholeness.  We know that the cancer is not God’s intention, but is part of our broken world.

Back to work

October 19, 2009

Mary Jo is back to work at least part time.  She worked 3 half days at school and picked up the senior choir rehearsal last Wednesday night.  She did find the days tiring, so she will maintain the same schedule this week.  While it is tiring, it’s also energizing to be back doing what she enjoys.  

We are fortunate to have our daughter Ahna, her husband Oren and grandson, Ezra with us for several days over the weekend.  Ahna has a break from teaching school in Colorado.  It’s a delight to have then here.  Sunday afternoon found the four of them in an apple orchard enjoying the great outdoors.

We’ll meet with our oncologist a week from Thursday and see where we go from here.  We know that cancer patients are told to take everything “one day at a time.”  We’re finding the truth of that statement, but still will be glad when we can know more of what to expect in the next few weeks.

Thanks for your prayers and thoughts.

Sunshine on the trail

October 19, 2009


On October 10 Mary Jo and our daughter, Kari, participated in a walk, run, bike event from Bangor to West Salem by walking a mile down the bike trail and back again.  It was a cold windy fall day but their hearts were warmed by the enthusiasm, the energy and the compassion of all the participants as they would meet and greet each other along the way.  The event was sponsored by a group that call themselves Sunshine on the Trail.  All the  money that is raised is used locally to give support to those whose lives have been affected by cancer.  It was very meaningful for Mary Jo to be able to be a part of this event with Kari.

Molecular testing

October 10, 2009

We went to the doctor Friday.  The surgery recovery is going well. Things are healing  and Mary Jo is feeling stronger.  Her arm is returning to normal range of motion with exercise.  Cause for celebration.

The oncologist is still figuring out what is the best treatment for her. One way  is to do some molecular testing on the specimen that has already gone through pathology.  Size and grade of the tumor, one’s age and lymph involvement all suggest that chemotherapy will help her, but this new testing may help  refine what might be best for her. We may know in a couple of weeks when chemotherapy might begin. The good thing is that this testing is being done during the healing time from surgery and  won’t push back the start of treatments.  We are on a sharp learning curve about all of this.

In the meantime life goes on.  We’re glad to have our daughter, Kari, is here for the weekend.  She has a 15 year reunion of her high school class Saturday.  How can that be?  Didn’t she just graduate?  It’s been great to have her here.

Mary Jo is looking toward getting back in the swing of things.  She’ll be in the percussion section with the senior choir at church on Sunday and is considering going back to work this coming week.  That will probably be good.  It’s one of the places that she finds her joy.

Thanks again for words of encouragement, for prayers and support. All of it is appreciated.  Some of you have already made this journey, and you are our heroes as we go forward ourselves, walking in your footsteps.  You give us courage and hope.  We thank God for each of you.

A step forward

October 6, 2009

We took a step forward on this journey today.  The pathology report from last Wednesday’s surgery came back with no cancer cells in the excised tissue.  So no more surgery at this point.  The next step is the oncologist on Friday.  We give thanks for good news.

A New Journey

October 3, 2009

In September Mary Jo started a new journey with cancer.  A routine mammogram at the end of August saw something suspicious.  She followed up with an ultrasound on her breast and a biopsy of the shadowy form.  A few days later our fears were confirmed, it was malignant.  

A visit to the surgeon gave her the choice of a lumpectomy or mastectomy.  Both would give the same outcome.  She chose to have a lumpectomy on September 21.  The tumor was excised along with 1 centimeter of tissue around the tumor.  The two sentinel lymphatic nodes showed that the cancer was not in the lymphatic system which was a plus.

Subsequent pathology reports found microscopic cancer cells in the “good” tissue that were within 1 mm of the edge of the tissue excised.  That meant another trip to the operating room on September 30.  The incision was reopened and more tissue along that margin was removed. Mary Jo tolerated both surgeries well.

Our daughter, Kjerstin, and Dave’s sister, Ruth, have spent the last couple of weeks with us providing physical and emotional support.  Their presence was greatly appreciated, as were the daily phone calls from Kari and Ahna and contacts with other family and friends. 

We’ll be meeting with the surgeon and with the oncologist on Friday, October 9, and discovering what steps we will need to take next and when that might happen.  Chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy appear to give the best chance to put this disease into remission.  

We’re discovering that this is a journey not only with cancer but also with God.  We find ourselves joining the  two disciples who walked along the road to Emmaus after Jesus crucifixion.  Their world is shattered as their worst fears  come true.  They journey from Jerusalem in grief with lots of questions about the future. And then unrecognized  Jesus joins them. He reminds them of  God’s promises to be with them, and at the end of their journey he transforms their lives as he reveals that he is risen from the dead and continues to be with them.

God has already joined us on this journey too.  We have begun to recognize God in your faces and in the expressions of concern many of you have offered.  We thank you for that and are deeply humbled by your kindnesses.  You are indeed doing God’s work with your hands.

We covet your continued prayers.  Mary Jo feels surrounded by those prayers, and they are a source of strength.  Thank you for them all.  

We’ll try to provide a weekly update here of this  journey.  Your comments are always appreciated.