Cancer, Christmas & Cupcake Wars

We almost hosted a Christmas Party…. almost.  That is, we thought of the idea – Mark actually suggested it and I actually thought that we could pull it off.  We were both aware of being on the path back to normal.  Especially after our kids’ clean scans in November.  There is a sense of getting our heads above water, breathing normally and especially feeling…  Feeling…. I had an image of myself as a tree that is budding in the springtime.  Still alive through the winter, but now just about to return to a more beautiful and productive state of being.  Feeling the sunshine, wind and rain with an enlivened sense of being.
We weren’t quite there – but on our way.  It felt great…
sidenote:  We aren’t exactly hermits – we tend to have people at our house quite often and always enjoy it… but it is different than it used to be.
Back to the current story –
The Sunday before Christmas… our congregation was full – the college kids were home!  Mostly.  My three college kids would not be home for a couple days because they each had an appointment at Huntsman Cancer Institute on Monday.  Nathan was being tested for Li Fraumeni Syndrome (he was in the Philippines while everyone else was doing this), Jackie needed an MRI of her liver (follow up from November) and Greg was there to hear the results of his MRI from the week before.
Monday – It was strange to have so many children at the doctor and not be involved.  I finally got my “going good” texts from all but Greg.  The boys’ appointments were in the morning, Nathan stayed with Jackie for her afternoon MRI, and Greg was asleep on the Front-Runner headed back to Provo so that he could work.  That was unfortunate because back at the hospital they were trying to find him.  They finally tracked down Nathan – he was in the MRI waiting room.  After further review of Greg’s scans, along with his physical exam, they had arranged for further testing.  Obviously he was unavailable.

Here is where it got complicated – I was expecting the kids to leave Utah early the next morning to drive home.  Tuesday morning at 9:30 would set them back a few hours, but I thought it was worth it and didn’t really understand Greg’s refusal to wait.  His doctor was also insistent that he stay in town until they could resolve it.  Finally the doctor consulted with a colleague who said that another week would not have an impact on the situation.  I was rather unsettled with the whole situation until the next morning when Mark and I returned from a morning walk to find them home!  They had driven through the night to surprise us!  Their car was packed and they simply had to wait for Greg’s shift at work to be over so they could leave.

A family (+Laura) temple trip helped
kick off our Christmas!

Back to Monday afternoon – texts and phone calls all seemed to be bringing worse and worse news.  I had been truly looking forward to the “boring year” that Natalie had predicted.  Our lives which had been budding into springtime had hit a deep freeze and I could physically feel myself slipping back into my shell.  I did not feel strong enough to face it (whatever “it” would be).  I did, however, know the way.  I had been reminded just the day before at church.  Our Bishop has spoken on Isaiah 9 – For unto us a child is born… and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God…. the Prince of Peace.  Peace is what I was seeking.  Counselor is what I needed.  Mostly I was numb.  I actually had several youth at my house for lessons on making cinnamon rolls/party.  Luckily they were entertaining themselves as I was getting the news.   By the time Mark came home we had received the “go-ahead-and-go-home” phone call, so the dark afternoon was passing.  Peace was coming.  I knew that we would be able to face whatever we were presented with.  I didn’t want to, but I knew that we would.  We would be left with a great unknown through Christmas – but it was ok.
Better than ok – Christmas was wonderful.  This is the first time in four years to have all six children at home.  We were by ourselves and loved every minute.  I’ll tell more later…
As I type this I am sitting at OHSU – in the waiting room with Greg while Jackie has yet another MRI.  This one is to check her spine and make sure that gruesome tumor has not returned.  We will see the doctor this afternoon and they will head back to Provo together early in the morning.  Last Wednesday she had blood drawn for her internist, but we had to cancel her appointment because they are leaving town so early.    (Having responsible kids who support themselves through college means that they have to work instead of staying to play with us.)  This wonderful doctor agreed to just call if there are any concerns – we are hopeful that these results are normalizing.  Jackie’s Christmas break has been a little hospital-heavy.  We haven’t heard anything about her liver so we are assuming that all is well.

The set of Cupcake Wars

Sitting with Greg, I told him that I would be blogging about our current situation and he was less than thrilled.  I am, therefore, leaving our many details.  I will just say that many friends worried that he was rather thin when he returned from his mission last summer.  Take away another 20 pounds or so – and therein lies our concern.

A “fondant” girl playing
at the beach.. My sweet
husband was surprised to find
out she was plastic – as though
we could create something
like that!

Christmas Eve was my all-time favorite.  When the children were young they would dress up and act out the nativity.  During the past few years we stopped dressing up and combined Christmas Carols with scriptures.  This year we watched the movie Silent Night on BYUTV and then sang our way through all of the Christmas Carols in our hymnal.  (It is fortunate that our children can accompany us on the piano.)  At the last minute we decided that we would take turns giving a short, impromptu devotional on the upcoming song – it was great.  One of my favorites was for “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” – it was Natalie’s turn and she reminded us that we all need to “Hark” and listen for heavenly messengers… take time to be still and listen.

S’mores anyone?

Making little movies and music videos is something that my children enjoy.  For a family event last Saturday they orchestrated an “episode” of cupcake wars.  Scripts, scenery and scenarios were designed on the spot.  Baking, decorating and creating reality-TV-drama-&-intrigue took all of our energy, but it was so much fun to laugh together.  Everybody contributed and everybody got along… what more could a mother want?

I have been typing along and waiting for some results… We have now seen Jackie’s scans and spoken with her doctor.  There is no sign of recurrence and she has the next six months off.

Wednesday – I have also spoken with her doctor in Utah and her liver scans are unchanged.  They will continue to monitor it on an annual basis, but we will be not be concerned.  Greg spent the day back at Huntsman.  They did a CT scan – these are super rare for our family because we have to avoid all forms of radiation when possible.  Even our dentist limits the X-rays for the kids.  I just got off the phone with his doctor… and they will need to do more testing before we have a diagnosis.  Right now it ranges from inflammation to cancer and everywhere in between.  He did remind us that Greg’s prior cancer, osteosarcoma, is intense and treatment is extremely intense – so we wouldn’t be looking at anything like that.  Phew.  I have spoken with Greg and we will not worry until we have cause to worry.
Another positive – classes begin next week so Greg would be able to change his schedule quite easily if necessary.
When the children left on Tuesday morning I was very sad – more than I expected to be.  I even let Mark know I would begin to save right now for an extended vacation when I became an empty-nester because an empty house will be unbearable. Today I ran into my friend, Gina.  She asked about the kids and I gave her the update.  “No wonder you were so sad when they left!”  The light went on!  Of course I was more upset than usual – I wish that I could be with my son as he undergoes testing and doctor visits!  But who is my Counselor?  From whom do I receive Peace?  The same Source as my son, and all of our family.  Greg will read this and know that his mother has faith and will be praying for him to feel strength.   I am sure that I can add grandparents, sibling and many friends as well.

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