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Tuscaloosa,, Alabama, United States
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:14-17

Thursday, September 26, 2013

We are crying out for healing in our city!!!

      Wow....what a week is all I can say!  On Wednesday I started feeling badly, but I pushed through all the way until Saturday night.  I had a small fever on Saturday night and woke up to a 104.7 spike on Sunday morning!  We went to the ER and I was admitted to DCH.  My white blood cell count had dropped to 1,000 (normal is 10,000).  Lots of antibiotics and a couple special shots later and I left the hospital on early Tuesday afternoon with a count of 11,000!!! 
     While I was there, my co-worker and friend came to visit me and said she was already at the hospital and told me about this young girl (17 years old) who had been in an awful accident and was going to have brain surgery.  This little girl is in her husband's youth group.  The entire time I was there, I couldn't feel sorry for myself for having to be sequestered to my hospital room because there was a little girl from our community quite literally fighting for her life on the hallway just next to mine.  As I was rolled out of the hospital, I was more than a little overwhelmed at the mass standing in the waiting room on the 2nd floor.  I saw my co-worker and told her, "I believe in healing.  If I can believe it for myself...I can surely believe it for Olivia."
     Just a few days before I was hospitalized, I came across a request for donations for a little girl Kelsey (also 17 years old) who was diagnosed on Sept. 16th with an aggressive form of bone cancer.  They are collecting donations for her family to help them pay for medical expenses that they will be responsible for out of pocket.  In 5 days, their funds counter on the website has gone from $700 to over $10,000! If anyone wants to donate, the URL is http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/kelsey-s-fight/89867  That is amazing!!!
    I've seen multiple pictures of their friends at school gathered together calling on the healing name of Jehovah Rapha (Our God the Healer)!!!!!  I've seen and heard so many comments calling for prayer and belief in healing for these girls!!!  I've heard of different high schools coming together for the cause of supporting Olivia and praying for a MIRACLE!  Their families are both boldly declaring God's divine healing and  protection over their precious little girls!
    There is also a college sophomore, named Libby, with Cystic Fibrosis who is also in the hospital fighting an infection.  The need for prayer in our little city is SO great.
    The prayer vigil that was held to pray for my own healing was so amazing!  I can't thank each person enough for their love and compassion and sacrifice to stand with me to believe that God is in charge and He has provided divine healing for me.  I'm just waiting for the manifestation.  I can't describe what it feels like to see people wearing a t-shirt with their commitment to pray for me scrolled across the back.  It's just overwhelming and my heart is filled with such gratitude and love for each and every one of these people.
     During the prayer vigil, I described a scene that had been playing over and over again in my head that was accompanied by a feeling of excitement.  Imagine standing in a wooded area, tall trees towering overhead with leaves the color of fall strewn across the ground.  Feel the electric charge in the air as the leaves lift off the ground and begin rustling and circling in the wind.  In the blink of an eye the leaves are so thick around me that I can hardly see from one side to the other.  All the color blowing with wind so strong and I'm just standing there with my hands raised.  This is my dream for our city!  There is something big coming and the leaves are just beginning to rustle and swirl, but I think we are seeing it happen before our very eyes!!!!  I've seen our community unite for a specific cause on a grand level before - in April of 2011.  I'm seeing us unite once more for the cause of healing!  We have so many more in our community that have the need for MIRACULOUS healing...not all the needs are even physical.  I want to see our churches come together and our families come together to agree that God wants us to walk in fullness and wholeness and I want to see a revival in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that the history books talk about!
     Please join with me in praying for an outpouring of the holy spirit in our city that will rock us to the core and that God will be glorified in all His splendor!!!! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Prayers are SO Powerful!!!!

I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who has been an intercessor in prayer for me and my family.  I have had SO many people let us know that they were praying for us!!!!  It is overwhelming (in a good way)!!!  A friend from church designed the graphic above.  I LOVE it!!!!!  She designed it in connection with another group of friends from church who have come together to organize a 24 hour prayer vigil at my church (First Wesleyan Church).  Saturday, September 6th from 7am until Sunday, September 7th at 7am, they told me they want to have two people in our prayer room for one hour shifts agreeing with me in prayer that this horrible disease will be cast from my body.  I will update with details later, but I found nodules on the left side of my chest so they did a PET scan and the results showed a small lesion on my liver and on my right femur.  This metastasis moves the staging to level 4.  I've since visited MD Anderson in Houston, TX and have a regimen of chemotherapy to follow for the next six weeks.  When your cancer cells do not respond to certain hormones they assign a "negative" to that hormone in your diagnosis.  I happen to have been diagnosed "triple negative", which means that the cancer did not respond to any hormones.  This makes treatment options even more limited because if you test "positive" for any of the hormones, they can use medications that block that certain hormone sometimes, as opposed to only have chemo available in their arsenal of drugs.  Y'all know I'm really honest and I will tell you that what they diagnosed me with is considered terminal.  The doctor at MD Anderson made it clear that her goal was not elimination of the cancer, but extending the number of my years alive.  I do not accept that diagnosis or viewpoint. The God I serve is mighty, powerful and loving. I believe that He continues to heal us in the same awe-striking manner that He did when He walked this earth with us. I am boldly claiming healing for myself!  Please agree with me in prayer that God will cleanse my earthly body of cancer and I will walk in wholeness.  The group organizing the prayer vigil asked me to extend their invitation to my friends to join the vigil if they had the desire.  If you would like to participate, please email me and I will forward it to the organizer. :)  HeatherJRyan014@gmail.com
Please know how much I love you all and how much more God loves you!!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

June 18th

I'm having a hard day today.  I think it's similar to the beginning of chemo.  About a week after I started chemo I sat and thought about it and the thought of making it through 16 weeks of chemo was just flat overwhelming.  Everytime I thought about it I teared up...I just didn't think I would be strong enough or brave enough.  Well, guess what,  I did make it through 17 weeks of chemo!  Then two surgeries!!!  I am standing at the gates of the last type of treatment that I have to take and the thought of doing this for 6 more weeks is terrifying.  It's the unknown.  I don't know what I'll feel like 6 weeks from now, but I can't imagine I'll be feeling very well.  That's scary.  What's even more scary is that I'll be done doing all the different things that man has discovered that will fight this disease and....what if it doesn't work?  At the end of radiation, we've done all we can do and what if it doesn't go away?  I have faith (and a lot of it)....but this is really hard.  Believing with all your heart that Christ loves you enough and wants you to be well is much easier said than done.  God has used this sickness as a tool to lead me through a journey of self discovery.  I can honestly say that I am not the same person I was on November 30, 2012.  My relationship with God is not the same as it was that day.  I am so far from being the person that I feel like God knows I can be, but I want to be that person so much more now. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Long overdo update...we've been so busy!

We welcomed summer time with a fun trip to the river bank!!!  The chemo didn't hit me nearly as hard this time around.  I was only in bed for about a day and a half instead of the usual almost full week!  We took advantage of a beautiful weekend day to visit the riverbank!  Ashlyn has been dying to use her new bathing suits!!!  She loves riding on Daddy's boat and swimming in the river, not to mention the endless fun with sand!

Ashlyn's preschool set up fun-themed summer days for this month!  The first day was "Hat Day".  Ashlyn used to HATE hats and that word is not an overstatement.  She is coming around on hats and will occasionally wear them, but we don't have a ton of hats laying around the house for her.  We did have this cute little matching hat and dress outfit and I was so glad she had an opportunity to wear it!

They had Swim Day/Disney Day another day.  After she went swimming, she was all "Tinkerbelled Out"!  She even had Tink underpants!

They've had several other days...but my favorite was "Duck Dynasty Day"!

I had a coupon for the Heart of Dixie Train Museum - so we headed out to Calera,  Alabama to check out the museum and ride a REAL train!  Ashlyn is loving some Choo Choo's right now.  A train runs behind T-town Cafe, so every time she hears the horn, she grabs the first available adult hand and proceeds to drag them with all her might outside to watch the train pass!  We really had a great family day in Calera!

Ashlyn is not a big fan of new people, but she took to this conductor man pretty quickly!  He was so informative and we were really glad he was on our car!  We let Ashlyn decide whether she wanted to sit inside or sit on these outside cars that they had custom designed for the one-hour train ride.  Obviously she chose outside!
I had been given the first dose of chemo with strict instructions to watch the area and call the oncologist if I did not see drastic improvement quickly.  I called after about a week and a half later because I felt like the area was actually growing.  My doctor agreed and we arranged to begin radiation within the next week.  I was pretty disappointed because I had high hopes of keeping the hair that had grown back already, but unfortunately that was not to be. :(   Lost all my hair and the bone, muscle and joint pain came right back.  It's manageable though and I know they will go away eventually. 
The weekend before we began the radiation, we were able to take a nice, relaxing weekend trip to Orange Beach with some friends!

Ashlyn LOVES the beach!  She loved playing with our friends' little boy too!  That made the trip so much more enjoyable that we each had a friend to play with!

Aren't they BEYOND ADORABLE!!!

We had Father's Day dinner at Olive Garden. :)  Ashlyn decided she was a big enough girl to dole out the salad.  She actually did a pretty good job, but she was quite generous in her portions and the second our plate was empty she was "Johnny on the spot" to refill our bowl with salad.  She is growing up so fast and it is blowing my mind how quickly she learns new stuff!
Several people were aware that we considered making the trip to Houston, Texas to visit the only IBC clinic in the nation.  It is part of MD Anderson.  We prayed very hard and had several friends and family members praying that God would show us His guidance.  In several ways, I believe He showed us that He did not want us to go to MD Anderson.  I feel very confident in the care I'm receiving and am glad that I'm underway with the last type of treatment for this awful disease!  My radiation oncologist is amazing!!!  The staff is so sweet and caring!  Dr. Salter is my radiation oncologist.  I had what they call a "simulation" done the Wednesday before last.  They take x-rays and overlay them on your pet scan (I believe...if I understood everything correctly) to identify exactly what angles, etc. to shoot the radiation beams.  They make marks all over you and make the cushiony form that you lay in that helps make sure you are positioned exactly the same during each treatment.  The doc was available to answer any question or discuss any concerns.  I began radiation last Monday and then saw my doctor.  She was very concerned (as was I) that the cancer was growing SO RAPIDLY!  I saw change daily!!!   We discussed possible twice a day radiation, but after she discussed the option with her group of doctors, they came up with a new plan to attempt to escalate the rate at which my body would be absorbing the radiation.  We decided to up the dosage to almost double and use what they call a bolus every day for the rest of the week.  The bolus is essentially a moistened material that focuses the radiation near the skin instead of deeper inside the area.  Today they re-evaluated and are happy with the results.  I feel like the cancer has stopped growing.  It doesn't feel much smaller yet, but it's definitely not bigger!  I was able to drop back down to the normal dosage of radiation today!  The doctor felt that is was not the best decision for me to travel back and forth from Tuscaloosa (even if I'm not driving) so she is arranging for me to stay at the Hope Lodge.   The Hope Lodge is kind of like a Ronald McDonald house for cancer patients and a caregiver.  I will check in this coming Monday and stay Monday through Friday and be able to come home for the weekends until the end of my treatments.  I'm not happy about not being with my family for that time, but I know it's best.  I am very lucky that my Mom is going to be able to come back down to Alabama again to take care of me!!! I'm excited to be able to see her again, but I wish they were more fun circumstances.  So far I'm still feeling pretty good, just a little tired, and any pain I experience is the result of the chemo.  Hopefully the aches will be gone soon! :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Motherhood is a Great Reason to Fight Cancer"

I'm pleased to be able to have a "feature author" on my blog!  Heather Von St. James is a seven year Mesothelioma Cancer SURVIVOR!  Her story is one that brings hope to those of us with very aggressive cancers!  Please read her story below and if you want to learn more about her, please visit her BLOG at www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather/


Motherhood is a Great Reason to Fight Cancer
A gut-wrenching situation like cancer can really change your life. I was 36 when it happened to me. I never expected that the high point and the low point in my life could occur at almost the same time. I went from pure joy to deep sadness very quickly. The happiest day was August 4, 2005, when my daughter Lily was brought into the world. It was an absolutely amazing moment for me, my husband and our whole family. Unfortunately the bliss faded really quickly.

I returned to work one month after Lily was born. The work routine left me feeling exhausted. I was tired all the time, and I was losing around five and seven pounds each week. Caring for an infant daughter and working a full-time job took a toll, but I knew that something else was wrong.

It was about 14 weeks after Lily's birth when tests finally came back. We assumed that it was something small, something that could be resolved easily and quickly. Unfortunately, the test results came back a lot more serious than we thought. I had malignant pleural mesothelioma, an extremely rare but deadly type of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs and is linked to asbestos exposure. I had inadvertently been exposed to asbestos as a child. The prognosis was a life expectancy of 15 months if I didn't start treatment.

The diagnosis was crushing. All I could think of was my daughter and how she and my husband would cope without me. My husband and I decided that we had to do everything that we could, and I selected the most aggressive treatment option. We traveled from Minnesota to a Boston cancer clinic to visit one of the top mesothelioma doctors in the nation. While in Boston, on February 2, 2006 I underwent an extrapleural pneumonectomy, an invasive surgical procedure to remove cancerous parts of the lung, diaphragm, chest lining and heart lining. I spent 18 days in the hospital, and it was another two months before I began radiation and chemotherapy.

During my stay in Boston, Lily flew with my mother and stayed at her grandparent's house in South Dakota. I missed some important milestones, including Lily's first bites of solid food, but my parents were there to see it all. Being away from Lily was one of the biggest challenges, but I knew that everything I was doing to fight the cancer was for Lily and so that she would have a mother throughout her life.

As hard as it was, my experience with cancer also brought some good. We are closer than ever as a family, and we all have a deeper appreciation for life. My daughter and my family are the reason that I am here for them today. To make it through, you need to discover what you live for and find the best in every situation.

Surgery 2 Successful!

Surgery 2 went very smoothly.  The anesthesiologist gave me two different anxiety medicines before surgery so I was a little grumpier waking up because I just wanted to go back to sleep, but still I've had very little pain!  I didn't have any heart issues this time, praise God!  The surgeon took the last two drains out and put one new one in.  He re-opened a part of the original incision so I won't have more scars. :0)  He sutured that part closed and took out every other staple on the other parts of the incisions.  I got my pathology reports today...He took 6 Lymph nodes during the surgery.  4 were from Level 1 and 2 were from Level 2.  He didn't want to touch Level 3 because that increases the risk for Lymphedema substantially.  The nodes from Level 1 tested positive for cancer, but the ones from Level 2 tested negative.  This is good news!  Fluid from the breast tissue drains to Level 1 nodes, then Level 2 nodes, then the Level 3 nodes, so since no cancer was found in Level 2 that is a good indicator that the cancer may not have had the chance to spread to other parts of my body.   I'm praying radiation will zap the cancer from the Level 1 nodes and that this nasty disease will not have a chance to spread to any other area!  I found my information about the Levels on THIS SITE.
I'm just hanging out with my Momma and enjoying spending time with her while I recover.  Mostly just watching TV and a little sewing.  I go back to the surgeon on Monday to get my drain removed and the rest of my staples.  I'm not sure when he will clear me to begin radiation, but that will be the next step.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Surgery is over...then again...

The day before surgery, I had one of the most fun days I've had in a really long time!!!  David's food vendor had a food show in the brand new Barons stadium in downtown Birmingham.  We walked around for several hours sampling food (mostly desserts for me!) with David's business partner and his wife.
When we left the stadium, we went to check in to the full service hotel we were staying in for the night!  It was beautiful and the hotel is brand new so the room was immaculate and service was impeccable!  We quickly dressed for dinner to make our reservation at Bottega in Birmingham.  Talk about deliciousness!  It was so fun to get dressed up to go out to eat!  (Thank you again Andy!)


When we walked out of the hotel, there was a limo outside the front door.  I jokingly said, "Hey, look, we have a limo to take us to dinner!"  Then David's business partner and his wife looked at me and said, "Surprise!".  They had rented a limo to take us all to dinner!!!  I can't begin to tell you how blessed we are to be paired with this couple in business and in friendship!  They have been so incredibly supportive to David and I through this and I don't have enough words to say how much I appreciate them!

This is the last picture ever taken of me with my "original girls"! They look pretty good too...wink, wink! LOL!!!  As we were walking back to our room, I commented to David that I felt like I'd been on vacation for the whole day! I was so relaxed and happy!

I didn't sleep all that well that night, but I wasn't really nervous, I was just anxious to get going.  I was as ready as I'd ever be and just didn't want to wait any longer!  We got to the hospital right on time at 5AM!  My mom walked into the registration area right after we did and I was so happy to see her there!  They took David and me back to a little room for me to change and the nurse to ask questions and then they brought my mom in for a few minutes and we all hugged and kissed good bye.  Then they came and rolled me away into the pre-surgery area where they started my IV and I talked with the surgeon and anesthesiologist. I think I was in there maybe 20 minutes.  They gave me something to help me "feel more comfortable" if you know what I mean while I was waiting, so it starts getting a little fuzzy from there.  I remember being rolled to the operating room and scooting over to the operating table.  I laid down they said, "Ok, I'm giving you the good stuff now" and that is the last thing I remember until I woke up in recovery.  The surgery took about 2 1/2 hours.  I was so lucky!!!  I did not experience any nausea from the anesthesia or any pain whatsoever!  I said a little thank you prayer to God for that one!  I did experience some Tachycardia, but I've been experiencing that since they checked my blood pressure before my third dose of Taxotere, so I'm praying that my heart will slow down and smell the roses soon.  Usually the stay in recovery is around 45 minutes, but they liked me so much that they kept me there for about 5 1/2 hours.  I think the anti-anxiety medicine was still working because I was perfectly happy where I was.  I had no idea I'd been in there that long!  They were finally ready to roll me to the room I was supposed to spend the night in...David took a very flattering picture of me in the hallway!  My head got cold in the recovery room so I had asked for a blanket just for my head!  LOL!

Don't you just love how swollen my face is!  I was in zero pain and pain medicine tends to put me in a really good mood!  I look way to happy to be in a hospital bed!

The Oncologist came by to check on us while we were there and give us the run down on how the next steps play out for treatment.  The surgeon came by and I'm proud to say I handled "the unveiling" quite well!  I've been really surprised at how well I've handled it!  I had one little mini breakdown in the shower, but I recovered quickly and I've moved forward!  The surgeon discharged me around 11am and we had a completely uneventful ride home. :)  I had staples and 4 drains.  The drains are, by far, the most irritating part of this recovery.  The ones on the left side have hurt a little here and there, but the ones on the right haven't been much trouble.  They are just burdensome to lug around and you can't really hide them to go somewhere...maybe if you wore a sweatshirt.  The incision areas are completely numb.  The surgeon had come across a couple lymph nodes actually in the breast tissue and he took those, so they were sent along with the other stuff to pathology to be tested.  The good news is that the chemo most definitely worked!  The largest area of cancerous tissue was only 1 1/2 cm!  There were a couple other areas that were about the size of a BB.  The bad news is that the lymph node they tested was about 3 cm (the size of a grape) and tested positive for cancer.  I spoke with the Oncologist and saw the surgeon today.  I have to have surgery again on Friday at 9:30am.  I don't have to stay the night again, but I have to go under general anesthesia again.  The surgeon doesn't think it will delay my total recovery by too long, just a few days maybe.  I have had zero loss of range of motion in my arms since the first surgery, but this surgery will probably limit my mobility in my right arm more and of course now the risk of Lymphedema is high again, whereas before I could still have gotten it from the radiation, but not removing them surgically would have reduced my risk significantly.  Please pray for me and my family. We are taking this all in stride, but I know it's stressful for my family to have to see me have surgery again.  I am praying for my doctors and nurses and, of course, an uncomplicated surgery that will help me to become 100% cancer free one day.  I am also praying that I will not get Lymphedema, but I'm going to talk with a physical therapist as soon as I can to prepare for the possibility.  Lymphedema can occur anywhere from the day after surgery to years after, but once it rears it's ugly head, it's a battle for life.  On the pleasant side of things, my hair is growing back!!!!  I definitely took losing my hair much harder than losing my breasts!  Funny, isn't it!  Anyway, I have long, soft fuzzies now.  It will be quite a while longer before it fills in and I can go without a wig, but I'm so happy that I'm on the road to recovery.  My legs don't hurt nearly as much now!  I'm not even taking "real" pain medicine for the surgery recovery.  Tylenol and Advil cover it.  We have enjoyed not having to stress about what to do for dinner!  Thank to each family that has prepared dinner and to my wonderful co-workers for the gift cards!!!!  I feel so incredibly blessed and loved!  God is still in control.  Even when we are side-swiped by surprises, He isn't!!!!  He knew exactly how this would all play out and He's got it under control! 

Ashlyn has been spending lots of quality time with Daddy! I have also gotten to watch tv with her and help her dress and even throw the ball with her too...but I'm the one taking the pictures so...here's a couple snapshots of the loves of my life!!!!