Saturday, August 30, 2014

Amazed Again at God's Provision

At this point, Dennis is in essence home bound. Last night when we got home a neighbor had to basically lift him up the two steps into the house. (Please pray the physical therapy he starts on Friday will help give him some leg strength.) 

After talking with Dennis' social worker, we both agreed it was time to put in a ramp. This is beyond my skill set and frankly even coordinating it seemed overwhelming. I called up our small Bible study group leaders and asked if they could help coordinate the group to build Dennis a ramp. By this evening a plan is in place to get this done and not only that, the cost of the supplies for building it are covered as well. Amazing.

Even in the midst of some very hard times, God continues to meet our needs in ways that are beyond what we could even imagine.

Thank you to our High Point Church small group. You are a blessing to us over and over again.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It is a Hard Road

For over two years Dennis has bravely fought stage 4 brain cancer. For most of that time, he has been able to do most of the things he loves. Although he has struggled with fatigue, we have managed to work around that and enjoy time with family and friends. We are so thankful for this precious gift of quality time we have enjoyed.
When we found out the tumor was active in May, our only choice left was another round of radiation. Since then, it has been very hard. Dennis struggles with communicating even some very basic wants and needs. As you can imagine this is very frustrating for him. Radiation has also strongly impaired his ability to walk. He has fallen 4 times in the last several weeks, uses a walker to get around the house and often needs help getting up from chairs. It is so hard to see him like this. For the first time I am seeing him lose his will to fight. I have to admit that I understand where he is coming from. He is tired of being sick and living the way he is.
Please pray for Dennis to get some strength and ability to speak. The doctors think this is possible in the weeks ahead. Pray for me to be able to be the support he needs both physically and emotionally. Also, pray with us about the financial needs that my need to only work part-time in order to help him will create along with the added costs of medical supplies and equipment he needs. Also, please remember Brooklyn in your prayers as she too works through all of this. She loves her daddy and has had such a short time to know the love of a father.
Thank you so much for all of your prayers, love and support through this entire journey. We could not have done it without you and continue to need you. Just knowing you care is such an encouragement to us. I often see Dennis light up when he is visiting with you or reading a note you sent. We love you all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

MRI and Moving Forward

We have had a few eventful days. On Sunday morning Dennis woke up with a headache and was confused. I called the on-call doctor and they said to bring him in to be checked. Lots of testing and an MRI led to an overnight admission to the hospital.   The preliminary reports from the MRI indicated some progression of the tumor.  This was concerning but we were waiting for the full report.  Dennis came home Monday afternoon and was doing much better.

Today we had an appointment with his doctor. The full review of the MRI showed an area that had gotten smaller and what was originally thought to be progression proved to be scar tissue.  We focused our discussion on how to help Dennis get stronger.  He will be starting physical and occupational therapy.   His legs are very weak and we want to maintain his ability to walk.  The weakness has several causes including the medication he is on, the location of his tumor and the fatigue from radiation.  We are hoping to reduce the medication in the days ahead.

So for now, we focus on getting stronger.  We are thankful for the good team we have to help us get the supports we need.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Overwhelmed by God's Provision

Our Lord Provides

Dennis continues to struggle with getting up from a seated position.  This is especially hard if he is on a soft surface like a couch.  We decided that having a recliner that would lift him up would be beneficial to him.  So, while Dennis went out to lunch with some friends, I went to the furniture store to purchase a chair for him.  One of the guys Dennis was out with for lunch felt God laying us on his heart and gave Dennis a check.  He did not know we were making a major purchase at that same time.  On Saturday, Dennis' Bible study group also gave him some monetary gifts.  These gifts paid for the new chair as well as a little extra.  Because Dennis can't walk stairs, he is unable to get to the family room to watch TV.  We are very low end TV watchers but Packer season is around the corner.  Moving the TV upstairs was beyond my skills as Dennis has a lot of "extras" attached to it.  I decided I'd put some money with the extra from the gifts we had and get a TV for the living room.  While I was out shopping someone else dropped off a gift for us.  When I got home and saw this gift, it was just enough to cover the TV.  Isn't it amazing how God used 9 different families to provide the exact amount that we needed for these two items?  We are overwhelmed by God's provision and attention to detail.  



Physical Healing

Dennis is gaining some strength and increasing in other skills as well.  He is better with his speech but still has room to improve.  His walking is very slow and he can't walk very far. We are working on this by taking short walks. He will have an MRI in a few weeks and that will tell us how well the radiation worked.  We will also be determining if some speech or physical therapy would be helpful.

My shoulder is still troublesome.  I have started physical therapy and see the orthopedist this week.  An MRI may be needed to determine if I have tear in the rotator cuff.  I'm unable to even be on the computer more than a few minutes without pain.

Please pray for continued healing for both of us.

What I Want - What I Have

Since we lost our golden retriever in December, Brooklyn has been talking about getting another one.  Recently as I was watching our springer, Willow, play with Brooklyn, I realized she was missing out on what she currently had - a loving, tolerant pet who is her constant companion.  After discussing this with her, she saw too that by focusing on what she didn't have, she was missing out on the blessing she did have.

But I wonder -  how different am I than Brooklyn?  I find myself wanting what I don't have rather than focusing on the blessings in my life.

I could, and frankly have, often thought of all the  - I really miss... items in my life right now.  
  • I miss carrying on a conversation with Dennis that is easy and not hampered by his problems communicating.
  • I miss Dennis coming home with flowers for Brooklyn and me.
  • I miss being able to go someplace without having to plan for Dennis' safety.
  • I miss being able to enjoy summer fairs, festivals, hikes, biking...
  • I miss walking hand-in-hand with Dennis on a summer evening.
  • I miss seeing Dennis play with Brooklyn and hearing her giggles.
  • I miss knowing Dennis is taking care of us.
  • I miss seeing Dennis mow the lawn or drive his truck.
  • I miss knowing Dennis can fix anything on my computer
OK, I think that is enough.  My discussion with Brooklyn made me realize I too was focusing on what I didn't have rather than what we do have.
  • Dennis has improved some since ending radiation.
  • We can go out for a meal together.
  • We have many friends who make it possible for me to get out and know Dennis is taken care of.
  • We have seen God meet our needs in so many ways and through so many people.  
  • We have learned to trust God on a completely different level than ever would have otherwise.
So as we continue to walk down this path, I am trying to focus on all that God has provided for us so I don't miss this because I am looking for something else.  



Friday, July 18, 2014

Lots Going on Here

Looking back at the last post I realize a lot has been going on here.

Dennis

Dennis saw the doctor today. This was his first check following the radiation. He said Dennis is doing about where he would expect him to be at this point. He said Dennis should continue to gradually increase his activity as much as possible.  He said it will take months to gradually regain his strength. 

He also is having some difficulty with talking.  This should improve also. If it is not doing better by his appointment in four weeks speech therapy may be needed.  He will have an MRI in four weeks.

Ellen

A little over a week ago I grabbed for one of our dogs as she tried to slip out of a door, lost my balance and slammed my shoulder into a support post on our porch. I did not break my shoulder but I have an injury to the rotator cuff. The doctor does not know if it is torn or just badly bruised. For the next three weeks I will have physical therapy. If it does not improve they will do an MRI to see if there is a tear. For now, I am resting it a lot and trying to keep the pain down.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn is enjoying summer school. She has taken math, cooking, computers and sign language.  She has also enjoyed time at the county fair, spent time with friends, planted a garden, attended Concerts on the Square and learned to roller blade.

She will be going to Abundant Life Christian School in fall.  We just got the school supply list. Yikes, summer is going too fast.

Prayer

  • Continued gains in strength and communication use for Dennis.
  • Healing of Ellen's shoulder.
  • Adjustments to a new school for Brooklyn.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Lots of Changes

Monday

On Monday I went into work.  It is the first time I had been into the office in close to two weeks.  Dennis took Brooklyn to the bus stop that is two houses away from us at about 7:40.  She is in summer school.  When he came home, he fell while going into the house.  When he finally was able to get up and call me it was around 11:30.  Needless to say I headed home immediately.  He had a bruised elbow but mostly was OK.  I had just gotten him an emergency call button but he had forgotten to put it on that morning.

Ellen's Changes

Since the incident on Monday, it became clear that I can't be gone for long periods of time so I am working from home.  My company and supervisor have been so supportive of this change.  I'm not able to work full-time most days as Dennis needs my help, but I am able to work a lot at this point.  I've set up a home office so it makes it easier to focus on my work with having a dedicated space for doing that.

4th of July

This was supposed to be a quiet day for Dennis and me.  Brooklyn had plans to spend the day with her aunt and uncle and I was hoping Dennis and I could get have a picnic.  Well, Brooklyn got to go to my sister's house but from there, it was not as planned.

I had noticed that Dennis' leg and ankle were swollen yesterday.  I sent a picture to his nurse asking what she thought it might be but she was off for the day.  Since he had fallen on Monday, I thought he may have injured himself and we'd see how it was doing over the weekend.  This morning it was significantly more swollen and cool to the touch.  Not sure if this was an injury or something else, we headed to the ER.  After x-rays and an ultrasound, they determined he had a significant blood clot affecting most of his leg.  It is a good thing we went in.  He is home and will be receiving two shots a day to thin his blood and allow the clot to be absorbed.  We had our "picnic" in the ER while waiting for tests to come back.  (The UW cafeteria has really good food.)  He will need to be up and about as tolerated and when not up, have is legs up to reduce the swelling.  Our doctor had told us a long time ago that about 1/3 of patients with this type of cancer will have blood clots.  We had avoided them up to this point.

Overall Conditions

Dennis continues to struggle with words.  He knows what he wants to say but so often he can't get the words to all come out.  As you can imagine this is frustrating for him.  We are hoping as we get further out from radiation that this will improve.  

After radiation he was really struggling with getting out of chairs.  He has improved in this area.  We are also seeing some improvement in his fatigue level.  

As You Pray

Please keep us in your prayers.  There have been a lot of changes in the last few weeks and we are all adjusting to them.  

We will be enrolling Brooklyn in a school in Madison this year as my schedule of going to Watertown on a daily basis is not predictable.  We are working on the details of car pooling with some other Sun Prairie families.  Please pray for her as she adjust to a new school and makes new friends.

As I am not able to work full-time, I will very quickly exhaust my sick time and vacation time.  We are thankful for a good financial adviser that is helping us plan for this.  Please pray that God continues to meet our needs during this time.  Please also pray for me as I assist Dennis and parent Brooklyn.

Please keep Dennis in your prayers as well.  Specifically pray for the blood clots to dissolve and for continued improvement with his speech and fatigue.  Also, please pray for him as he lives with these frustrations on a day-to-day basis.  Some days they are overwhelming.  

Thank You

Thank you all for your prayers, words of encouragement and assistance.  We don't know what we would do without you.  

We continue to trust in the Lord and his plan for this season of our life.  It certainly is not something we would have planned but we know it is part of His plan for each of us.  Recently I was in a Bible class and as we entered, we each were given a single piece of a puzzle.  The lesson was on how we only see one event at a time in our lives and don't always know how they will fit together.  It is much like that one piece of the puzzle.  On its own, it does not give you a good idea of what the picture is.  It is only when they are all put together that we can see the full picture.  God, the artist of our lives, knows the full picture.  I have that puzzle piece in my wallet as a reminder that all of this may not make sense to me right now but it is only one small piece to a much bigger puzzle.  


Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Rough Road

Dennis Update

Dennis is about a 12 days out of radiation.  He continues to struggle with fatigue, walking and word finding.  We saw the doctor on Tuesday because he was not feeling good and felt like each day was getting worse rather than better.  The doctor told us that he was just to the point where the impact of the last radiation treatment was beginning to subside and he should see improvements in the days ahead.  However, he also told us not to expect improvements on a daily basis.  They will be very gradual and more noticeable when looking back over a week or more.  Dennis will see the doctor again on July 18th.  If he is not getting around easier by then, he will consider physical therapy to help Dennis build back some strength.

On Wednesday Dennis starting having a lot of pain in his back.  By Thursday afternoon he was very uncomfortable.  We decided he needed to see a doctor so we headed to the ER.  After blood work and x-rays they ruled out the scary stuff like pneumonia or spread of the cancer into his spine.  It is most likely a pulled muscle so we have been diligent about using pain medications and that is keeping the pain under control. 
 

11th Anniversary

Today is our 11th anniversary.  We have been so blessed to share these years together.  I am amazed at all the blessings we have seen in these 11 years.  Here are just a few memories of those 11 years.  
Our wedding day.

Honeymoon - Nova Scotia

First Anniversary - San Francisco

Vacation - across the street from the Corn Palace

Dennis in Arizona

Ellen feeding a tiger in Arizona

Nashville, TN

Outside the Forbidden City in Beijing with Francis, Tracy and Ping

Our first family picture

Family Picture - 2013