Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Final Update

"Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, 
but is a strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that 
God is holy love."

-Oswald Chambers

        Jeff is home.  He is standing before holy love and is free from the heavy hearts we carry.  Thank you for walking through this journey with us.  I know we are not alone. 

   Jeff's scripture for the year of 2015 was "But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.  Therefore it says, "Awake O sleeper, and arise from the dead.  And Christ will shine on you."  Ephesians 5:13&14

So grateful he is basking in the light of God's holy love.

We are currently making arrangements for a celebration of Jeff's life and will let you all know the details.  Much love, Becca

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Update 22nd of November

     I was twenty years old.  More humble than the Autumn before, but just as stubborn.  I thought I would never marry and end up teaching in an orphanage an ocean away.  After a summer in Latvia I realized my weakness and need, but still knew little of my heart.  I first noticed Jeff explaining his sculpture piece to a disgruntled professor in the middle of a courtyard.  The professor did not go easy on Jeff.  Jeff spoke of God and our frailty and the professor disagreed with everything he shared.  I hid in the bushes that surrounded the courtyard listening to his response and was late to English.
      That began a friendship that grew into a relationship.  We were both independent, stubborn, and unwilling to settle.  We both knew God had amazing things in store for us as individuals and struggled  with the thought of lifetime commitment.  What I saw in Jeff that first day carried through some difficult seasons as we dated, got engaged, broke up, and began to date again.  Even in the harder seasons I saw integrity, an unwillingness to be fake, and a lion heart.  He didn't talk about loving others he just did it.  He didn't talk himself up or down he just showed up faithfully.  And through his eyes I saw more than what I thought sacrifice was all about and began to understand what it meant to take one faithful step at a time.  Jeff had and still has an unwavering love of Christ.  Not an easily won, nicely packaged love.  But a bleeding, broken love that doesn't quit.  He sticks it out, he plods on trusting that it is less about him and more about HIM.  When Jeff and I decided to get married (the second time) we knew full well that our hearts were still afraid.  Afraid we would mess it up, afraid we would not know how to love when feelings ebbed and hard times came.  But we made vows knowing God was bigger than our fears.  That the God who called us together would help us walk the million steps forward.  I remember thinking there were many in the world I could laugh with, many I could walk the normal days with.  But when I looked at Jeff I knew I could walk hard days also.  I knew I was safe.  I knew I could laugh, walk, and even struggle beside him.
     We still joke that it was only God that could have brought us together.  We naturally messed so much up it shouldn't have happened.  But we made it.  We stood face to face on June 9th and repeated our vows in humility and love.  And after years of good and hard I am so grateful I said I do that day.
     We took some weeks to fully settle into Jeff's childhood home.  The boys explored the same woods he did and biked the same trails.  We had nightly fires and smores, and early morning back porch bible readings while sipping coffee.  I began teaching the boys and Jeff helped to check their work.  I started emailing friends back and having them slowly trickle in to see Jeff and share memories.
   And then the next wave hit.  It started as the normal cough,dry turning to deep chested and rattling.  It has come and gone many times in this past year.  But this time it stayed.  It racked his body and stole his breath away.  He began sleeping more and his legs weakened.  Oxygen was delivered and he became breathless walking from room to room.  The hospice nurses brought more medicine to dry him out and cough medicine to give him rest in the late hours of the night.  Nothing seemed to work.  In one week we went from "we can do this" to "no please, not yet".  Jeff is confined now from bed to recliner.  He is tired, he sleeps more than he is awake.  The nurse will now come twice a week instead of once.  His voice is weaker still, his body thinner.  His heart however is not wasting away.  His heart beats as strongly for God and for us.  Not because God has healed him, or made this path easier.  And he loves us deeply.  He uses the little words he can speak now to whisper prayers and love.  His body is spent.  His heart is not.
     And the nights when God has seemed too silent and too distant, we talked about how in heaven there will be no distance, no silence.  There will be no pain, or weak limbs.  No fear, no tears, no more questions.  When we stand face to face with our Maker we will be known and know in full.  Jeff knows this and there have been many nights he would have gone gladly.  But tonight he asks me not to give up on him.  He prays to stay longer to raise his boys.  He asks to have more time in a world that is broken and so far from perfect.  A request more motivated by love than fear.
     Tonight after a seeing Jeff's body heave and cough Ian ran to his room.  I stayed to help Jeff and checked on Ian after.  He was at his desk drawing so I came back and wrote a quick update to friends asking for prayer and sharing the hard.  Just as I finished he ran up with a drawing for Jeff for me to see.  "Remember in the cabin when we read the story of Jesus in the boat sleeping during the storm?"  I answered yes.  "Remember when we prayed and asked him to wake up."  I answered yes again.  "Well this is him waking up!"  He walked over and gave the picture to Jeff.  With shaking hands and heavy lids he took the picture and thanked him.  I framed it and hung it above the basket of pills.
     We don't know how this storm will end but we know it will end.  We know the waves will eventually be stilled.  We know Jeff's body will be made whole.  This part of the journey feels unbelievably hard.  We are broken watching Jeff's body fail.  But we cling to the hope we have in Christ.  The hope that all things will be used a thousand times over what we can comprehend.  Jeff has reminded the boys, that in all the many ways this can go down, he has already won.  So grateful I said yes to this life shared with him.  We love you all and continue to covet your prayers.  Much love, Becca

Monday, October 26, 2015

Update: October 26th 2015

Two days ago a plane landed in Edinburgh, Scotland with five empty seats.  And today, after a two week October holiday Wormit Primary and Madras had three empty seats.  This week 2 The Beehives will be packed up quietly as we try to explain to three boys that life is about to change again.  That we are staying longer and we don't know how much longer.  And because of all the unknowns, life in Scotland needs to be packed up.  There is no way to explain in typed out words.  Even face to face I could not possibly bridge the canyon of how far our hearts have traveled these past few weeks.  Scotland was home.  Luke and Levi both put it well when they say the past 16 months hold the most amazing and hardest part of their lives so far.  We really believed we could board that plane.  We really thought it was possible to go back to life there and not here.

When we landed, Jeff was seen by doctors at UVA.  We had appointment after appointment, going through everything again.  Diagnosis, scans, blood work, bad news.  You would think after three times we would be ready for it.  London Clinic, Ninewells, and now UVA.  We weren't.  This cancer has decided to leave the soft tissue alone for now and further attack Jeff's spine.  Numerous lesions were pointed out, along with spreading to the ribs.  Second line chemotherapy was mentioned, and radiation on the worst lesion was scheduled.  Jeff struggled with new pain medicines and radiation and lost more weight.  His voice became raspy and weak and he struggled to cough well enough to ever clear anything.  We limped through the days as Ian counted how many more days until we could go home.  When we met with the doctor last week, it was to tell him that Jeff decided to not have anymore more chemo treatments.  Dr. Hall let us know he agreed and that it was time to begin hospice services.   Papers and numbers were given by a nurse with sad eyes and a quiet voice.  We had another talk with the boys.  We explained as best we could.  Levi asked if we could stop having family meetings for awhile.  We cried, talked, tried to answer questions about Zoe, school, friends, the house, and where we would live now.  I think back to the first talk with the boys, 9 months ago, and realize how much we have tried to shelter them from this hard climb.  But we are weak legged and tired.  And from this viewpoint they know too much to be sheltered in the same ways. We read the story of Jesus asleep in the boat during a storm.  How the disciples woke him up terrified they would perish in the waves.  And with two words the storm stopped and they were saved.  "Be still."  The wind and waves were stopped by two words spoken by the son of God.  We prayed as a family for Jesus to wake up, to still the storm, to guide us safely to the other side.  We prayed for the boys as they fell asleep still crying.  The next day we decided to run away to a beach.  We would find sand to dig our toes in and waves to ride and promised Levi there would be no family meetings at the beach.

So here we are in NC, with a few friends helping out and loving on us while we feel a little freedom to not be okay, and to grieve what we have lost so far.  And help us as we figure out how to have tender hearts as we move forward.  To remember how to thank Him for what is still given and not fixate on what has been taken.
We will stay here until Saturday and then we will move in with Jeff's mom near Harrisonburg, VA.  This will also allow us to be closer to the rest of his family.  We will sign more papers and close out all that we hold dear in Scotland and try to begin again.  I will home school the boys for the remainder of this year and sign up for online classes to get ready to teach art in the Fall.

Lately the boys and I have talked a lot more about my dad.  How going to heaven is the number one, best thing that can happen to a person.  The race finished, the tears and pain gone, the aches and heart holes finally answered and filled.  To meet the one who made you face to face and be at peace with all else.  We have talked about how healing is the second best thing.  And I really believe that with my whole heart.  That Jeff will find complete freedom heaven side.  That he will no longer have to walk with weak legs and a heavy heart. But I also  pray every night for the second best to be given.  That Jeff would be healed.  That somehow the cancer would retreat and healthy tissue and bone would grow into the voids left by disease.  That we would get to keep walking together as a family in this world.  That his voice would become clear and strong again.  That his lion heart could continue to teach and lead.  That the story of the five of us together is not over yet.

I will end this post with what we are thankful for.  Because today feels too hard, the losses feel too great,  and if I end with this maybe the sting of loss will turn into a heart of thanks.

I am thankful for a husband that loves me, that he is and always has been a gentle father to the boys, I am thankful for my own father who led me gently in truth and love, for a mom with a big heart and the energy of ten moms, for aunts and uncles that love us and the boys so well, for grandparents that show up and continue to give even if they are tired, for the houses we have called home these last few weeks (Ian falls asleep so often asking, "why do I feel so rich?", for a Levi to remind us that everyday is the greatest day ever (or could become that if it starts off rough), for a Luke who shares such deep wells of truth when I least expect it, for a car to drive and that I can drive legally!  For friends that keep sending messages and words of love when I am hiding, for all the words of hope and truth given, songs written, and prayers said daily for our little family, for the hope that others are walking in for us when it hurts to much to hold on to it ourselves,  for the friends and schools in Scotland that loved us so very well,  for the health of the boys as we transition and settle, for friends who are willing to watch Zoe in Scotland and pack up things on that end, for medical leave that still allows Jeff to be paid, for a boss with a heart that is so big and a willingness to help in anyway, for paid flights and luggage, and a beach house to stay in that we would never have been able to afford, for toes in the sand this week and for sunrises and cups of coffee over donuts, for early morning and late night hot tub dips, for birds that start to sing just before the sun rises, they sing in those last dark minutes, knowing it will rise....I could go on and on.  We are broken but blessed.  Thank you for standing with us.
Much love, Team Stables

Jeff would still love to see friends, we know the crazy arrival and settling with UVA appointments took away much of the time he had hoped to spend with others.  His voice is still very weak, it is hard for him to project or talk for long so we will be in touch with when and how visits should happen.  He is eating well again and coughing less.  we are all sleeping well.  The pain is being managed and he is getting out each day.  Please message or email knowing it make take a few days for me to get back to you.  We are still sorting out phones so email is the best form of communication right now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

One step at a time

      We have gotten through some really rough seasons taking one day or one step at a time.  Sometimes it feels foolish, not to plan more for the hundred ways this all could go.   But then something hits that makes me grateful that is the way we have walked.  One foot in front of the other, believing that God goes before us and stands behind us.
     After 48 hours in the hospital and one happy visit from the boys Jeff's body started tot fight an infection.  His fever went up to 104 f and his heart rate increased at times to 140.  His oxygen levels dropped, and the doctors tried desperately to find
 the origin of the infection and the right antibiotic to combat it.  My mom arrived and stayed with the boys and I stayed with Jeff as a steady stream of doctors and nurses checked his vitals and explained what they could.  24 hours in, the fever had not broken and they were on the last antibiotic they  could give.  I let his parents know to come as quickly as they could.  I sent out desperate pleas to close friends to pray.  And as his parents were in the air I didn't know what I would be telling them once they landed.  Night two, the antibiotics started to work.  It was a slow climb up.  Our oncologist explained gently that he would continue with the five radio therapy treatments but that it was time to stop all other treatment.  That the chemotherapy and Herceptin had stopped working long before.  That the cancer in the spine had been growing when the last scan had shown the cancer was stable.  Easy to miss when you are not expecting it, and when it is certainly not the norm.  Another hard decision, another hard step.  We explained we wanted to get Jeff home, to see friends and family and see those blue ridge mountains.  He promised he would do what he could to get us there.  When we had to cancel the Majorca tickets we had to exchange our tickets within 24 hours or risk losing all of the money.  I switched the tickets to October 3rd with return tickets October 23rd not knowing if we would even be able to keep them.  
The five day radio therapy stay turned into a ten day stay.  The grandmas tag teamed tearful boys and a lively puppy.  And after ten days I brought home a very frail and weak Jeff.  We were so ready to have him home but afraid of what being home would look like.  The doctors and nurses in Ward 32 had become a close knit support team.  Their compassion and teamwork helped get us through some dark nights.  We spent many a night praying for the patients that filled the rooms surrounding us.  And we saw for the first time how quickly things can change at this stage in the game.  
     Jeff has been home for one week now.  Far from the man that first walked slowly into the house last Monday.  We have walked each morning and evening.  He has been fed his mama's cooking to make up for the lost pounds in the hospital.  The boys took turns taking a day off from school to have a daddy day.  Our hope is to all catch a plane to the USA on the 3rd of October and we are still holding out hope we could come back to Scotland three weeks later.  We know that seems ridiculous and impossible right now but we have already lived out some ridiculous and impossible things this season.  We don't feel our time here is up or that Jeff's story is over.  So many things have happened that indicate that this is all so much bigger than us and our little family.  It is bigger than Ward 32 or all of Dundee and Fife.   We have experienced prayers of faith, friends with words of truth and hope, and lives being drawn to the one who made them.  We don't feel wise enough to fully understand these things, but feel it being stretched far from just our hearts changing.  Our good friend and former pastor came to Scotland for 48 hours just to pray for Jeff and share what he felt the Lord was doing. Humility and a willingness to follow when the path doesn't make sense.  What a gift it was to talk, cry, and pray with him.  We find ourselves in waters too deep to fully understand.  We find ourselves praying for healing in Jeff, for healing in Scotland- that somehow through this the Lord himself would sing to those far off.  And brokenness would be restored.
     Yesterday, following another viewing of Chronicles of Narnia, Jeff explained to Luke the difference between D Day and V Day.  The difference between Christ's victory on the cross, and his return and restoration.  Luke with open ears and an anxious heart, began to find peace in the fact that the decisive blow of victory has already been won.  For all things.  In the midst of waters too deep, we too are finding peace and trust here one step at a time.
     We will be arriving In Virginia October 4th.  We are staying on a beautiful farm near Charlottesville,VA and UVA Hospital.  So far all the many small details are coming together.  Much love, Team Stables

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Update September 13th 2015

The last week in August and the first ten days in September were so good.  Jeff got stronger, felt better, and even gained back some weight.  After a stable scan and going off the heavy hitting chemotherapy his energy slowly recovered and the Jeff we know emerged with it.  The boys started school and leaders came back to the University.  It almost felt normal, and it felt so good.  The summer just about crushed us and we managed to crawl out into the sinking sun and thank God for good days.  Jeff even made a move and booked tickets for us all to run away to a warm island for nine days.  We told the boys and the countdown (only seven days of it) began.  The next three windy and wet days would be met with, "Well in ... days we will be sweating and swimming!"  We were four days away from leaving, the schools were notified and so supportive.

Thursday night, during dinner Jeff turned his head to the side a little quicker than normal, and grimaced in pain.  He slowly moved to the couch and the pain increased.  Remembering his back issues years ago he said that it was probably a pinched nerve or muscle spasm.  I said something very unsympathetic like " Not right before holiday, no!" and maybe even something about how he holds his phone or checking face book too much, ouch.  I got the boys to bed and came back down to see the pain had gotten even worse.  Jeff is no stranger to pain these days and this was far past what he had experienced so far.  After a long night of friends checking in on him, a doctor, a shot and pills, he was still unable to move because of the pain.

I fell asleep in between pills doses and Alex who was staying the night with us took over.  By 5 am Alex drove Jeff to the ER (here it is called the A&E).  I got the boys off to school and met them at the hospital.  We were all hoping a shot of cortisone would help and we would be home packing towels and swimsuits by the evening.  Instead, x-rays and than a CT scan was ordered.  A kind doctor named Ian and Jeff's age came back to tell us that he didn't have a pinched nerve or a muscle spasm.  The cancer had spread into his spine and had damaged the bone in his neck that hurt so suddenly.

And just like the first time we heard of cancer in Jeff's body, our hearts and minds reeled.  Things go cloudy, and slow down.  Everything  suddenly seems too bright, too loud, too much.  Questions and confusion slink into every sentence.  We waited for more doctors, more answers.  I watched the clock and wondered where each boy was.  What letter Ian was writing, what friend Levi was laughing with, if Luke was buying a bacon roll for morning break.  I wondered how I would tell these boys doing simple normal things, that things were about to get hard and complex and confusing again.  We cried and prayed and Jeff asked me to read
Exodus 14:14, "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still."  Doctors came and spoke of options.  They decided the best thing to do was to admit Jeff, get a handle on the pain, and start the first of five sessions of radio therapy.  He was in his new room and the morphine was coursing through his veins as I left to meet the boys from school.

The boys broke in different ways.  We have gotten good at crying together.  Not hiding or shutting down.  We have gotten familiar with grace.  To give it to each other when words fail, or the hurt seems too much.  We wanted a week away, we wanted more time of normal, of good.  We wanted Jeff home right then, smiling, and joking with us.

I reminded them and myself that we don't get to write this story.  The pen isn't in our hand but God's.  We have to trust that the one who knit Jeff into being also knows how to sustain him.  It is funny how little Ian gets it more than I can most days.  He knows so little of what is going on in some ways and yet speaks so clearly about it all.  He is amazed that Jeff gets to be zapped by lasers and that his bed goes up and down.  He knows Jeff is hurting and prays simple prayers asking God to just heal him, to help him not hurt so much.  He looks up at me and says, "We all get to die mom.  Isn't that cool?  We all get to be born and we all get to die."  I didn't meet his gaze.  "It is okay mom, not yet, not yet, we will get old first."  Amen and amen.  We are not naive, we know that hard battle has become harder.  We have become weaker.  But this story will not be written by Jeff, or I, or doctors.  It will not even be written by cancer.  It will be written by God alone.

Please pray for peace.  For Jeff to sleep sweetly and deeply the nights away from us.  That we will know what to do next and when to do it.  That the radio therapy will beat back the cancer and offer relief.  And that we will find joy in the brokenness and  hope in the disappointments.  Jeff will be in the hospital until this Thursday.  As of today the pain seems to be under control and he is sleeping better.  If he is stable and the pain is still managable he will get to come home.  My mom comes tomorrow afternoon to help again.  Jeff's mom comes at the end of the week, and his dad in the next few weeks.  The doctors are optimistic about the radio therapy working.  We are hopeful also.  We also are hoping and believing that all ten of our toes will be in sand and sea together before the year is over.  Thank you for sticking with us.  The faithfulness of friends and family far away is so humbling.  This little village of Wormit is helping and holding us up in so many ways.  I will update next week when we know a bit more.

  Much love, Becca, Jeff, and the boys

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Update August 15, 2015

Jeff got diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer on March 18th, 2015.  In five months we have walked through complete shock, denial, despair, hope, and acceptance.  The last 6 weeks have been the hardest so far in this journey.  Jeff went from tolerating the treatments fairly well to getting sick constantly, being breathless after climbing any stairs, and so tired some days he could only make it from bed to couch.  These are also the same six weeks that all three of our Young Life camps happened.  We have never felt so humbled in our ability.  The greater Young Life family, some amazing student leaders (Euan, Mahlea, and Cameron), and an amazing team from McLean VA,  stepped up and all three camps happened.  We simply could not have pulled any of this off without the Scotland Young Life staff or these leaders.  On behalf of the many new creations from these camps, we are thankful and learning new things about God's grace to use us in our weakness.

Two weeks ago Jeff noticed he was having difficulty swallowing again.  Our hearts sunk and the fears bubbled up as we travelled to London for an endoscopy and scan.  The endoscopy to show what was happening to the stent and primary tumor and the scan to show how the cancer had responded to the last three rounds.  It was a rough trip, Jeff needing to sit and rest after a few yards walking and continuing to get sick.  The endoscopy showed that the stent had fallen into his stomach (hence the heavy feeling and continual sickness) and that he had a large pulmonary embolism in his lung (hence the zero energy and breathlessness).  The first news was exciting, the stent has always caused pain and that impacted Jeff in so many ways.  The Doctor was able to fish the stent out that day.  It also meant that it had dropped out of place due to a shrinking primary tumor.  The blood clot in the lung was terrifying.  He since has started daily injections to prevent any other clots from forming and to help resolve this one.

We got the scan results two nights ago.  It was by phone because his oncologist was away while we were in London.  The scans showed that there was minimal response this time.  Obviously the primary tumor did respond but that tumor was never measured in the beginning because of location and stent interfering with a reliable measurement.  With this information the oncologist and Jeff felt it was best to stop the Cisplatin.  This is the standard heavy hitting chemo he was receiving every three weeks.  He will continue taking the chemo pills for two weeks and one week off.  He will also still take the Herceptin, which is the targeted drug for the HER2+ diagnosis.  Our hope being that this will be enough to hold the cancer at bay and give him better quality of life.

There are so many unknowns ahead of us right now.  Now more than ever we are reassuring the boys (and ourselves) that God has a plan.  That He is not surprised by any of the things that have happened to us in the last five months.  And that indeed He is good and loves us beyond measure.

My mom flew home yesterday and I cannot imagine these last six weeks without her love, prayers, and words of hope.  I think I cried more than the first day of kindergarten saying goodbye.  The boys begin their school year next Thursday, and  Jeff and I will begin to figure out how things will work this next year here in Scotland.

We have been asked by many people if we have made plans to move back home yet.  The short answer is that we have prayed about it often lately but still feel we are suppose to stay here until we hear differently.  Please pray for our hearts and minds as we take all of these little steps daily and make big decisions for the future.

The pictures in this post are of a hill that is behind our house.  I walk up there often with Zoe and any family or friends willing to make the hike.  It has become a place where I can pour out my heart and pray through some hard things.  I feel like by the time Zoe and I both come through the front door my heart and mind are a little more trusting and less fearful.  Thanks for all the continued love and support even an ocean away.  Much love, Becca, Jeff, and the boys

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Without fear of the future

I have always had a head filled with questions.  Often I ask a question and can barely wait for the first answer to finish before asking my next one.  I am curious, a chatty 
one.  But sometimes, questions can't be answered.  And sometimes, knowing that an answer cannot be answered keeps it festering in the dark.

  On Thursday Jeff got horribly ill with a nasty stomach bug just days after the grandmas arrived.  We had planned a weekend away with us all.  Jeff gets one relatively good week each round where he is not taking any chemo pills, and the affect of the iv chemo has almost dissipated.  So for him to get sick on his one good week was heart breaking.

You get to a point where even if the one you love is suffering patiently, you begin to cry "enough".   It also awakens the whys, what ifs, and not fairs from lips that were just giving thanks the week before.  And while having two other sets of hands and hearts have allowed things to run smoother this week, it has also given me extra time to breathe and think.  Laundry is caught up, Zoe is having way less accidents, and Ian loves picking who will read to him each night.  The house is full of what only two grandmas can bring.  And my head had filled with the questions I knew had no answers.

 I have scrolled through face book wondering why we can't have normal any more.  I have seen families playing at the park and felt the unfairness of it all.  And my eyes follow older couples walking hand in hand and I have blinked away tears of what ifs.

I know it is perfectly normal to wrestle through the whys, what ifs, and not fairs.  Anyone who has walked a path similar would tell me this is par for the course.  But it is the first time I have landed here and I was afraid I would get stuck in the sad muck of questions without answers.  

I told Jeff I didn't want to be a withered old heart and soul after all of this.  His hand squeezed tighter and I spilled out all the broken whys that had built up.  I am certain that in the face of suffering we will eventually reach a point where the faith and hope we had will run out.  We will get to a point where we can curl into the broken questions and sink into despair, or we can confess our lack of faith and hope and take another step forward into the only place where real security ever really was.  Into a bigger reality.  His love and commitment towards us. Or as Paul tells Timothy "If we are faithless, he remains faithful..." Tim 2:13

So I took a step forward.  I woke up and asked for help.  When friends asked how I was I admitted that I couldn't see the good.  When I read scripture and promises I prayed for my heart to not be angry but to believe.  And I read and wrestled and asked all the questions that crowded my thoughts.  

After these last few days I am pretty sure the not knowing isn't as hard when you voiced the whys.  The not fairs don't sting once you have been able to pour them out and see how very little they look compared to the mountain of gifts we have been given.  And the what ifs become statements of faith and promise.

During all of this I received a beautiful bracelet in the mail that has Proverbs 25:31 stamped inside it.
"She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."  Ian loved it and wanted me to let him have it.  He asked why I got it.  He asked what dignity is.  For days he asked me if I would let him have it.  Finally, last night he declared he didn't want it any more.  I asked him why and he chuckled and said,  "because I like the strength and dignity part, but the no fear of the future part...why would anyone be afraid of the future!  I mean it is the future, it is not something to be afraid of."  I laughed and he added under his breath, "I mean, there aren't even any bears here!"
Oh to have a child's heart.

Jeff is about to have round number five in this six round cycle.  We will have another scan after round six and again be at a place of making decisions on treatment and direction.  He is still steadfast.  He is still showing up at the schools and lining up all the big and small details for the day camp in Tayport.  We have a very full summer ahead, with three camps (Day camp, Young Life camp, and Wyld Life camp.)  The boys are signed up for a sports camp and art classes.  And in a six week summer that leaves very little room for anything else.  In September we will steal away for a much needed family vacation on a warm, rainless beach.

Thank you for the continued emails, cards, and blankets.  This month when we have felt so weak, knowing that so many were standing with us in faith, hope, and love has sustained us.  Much love, Becca and the rest of Team Stables

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Update: June 13th

Good news, the majority of the tumors measured are shrinking.  None have grown, and only two have stayed the same.  The cancer started at the base of the esophagus, the primary tumor.  They are unable to evaluate any change to this tumor because the stent is pushing and distorting anything that would be measurable.  The stent is also allowing Jeff to eat anything he wants so we won't complain about it being difficult to measure.  Then the cancer is also in his lungs and lymph nodes.  Some of the lung tumors measured up to 50% decrease.  And a lymph node measured a 25% decrease.  This is called partial response and it is a very good sign that the targeted chemo approach is working.  We will continue the course and Jeff will have three more rounds, one every three weeks until this cycle is finished.  He will then do another scan late July and decide what is next.

 The news came much later than the three hours we anticipated.  We arrived in London and Jeff had a high fever.  An extra appointment was made, and he started emergency antibiotics.  By the next morning the fever had subsided and blood work looked good.  At 12:30 Jeff got the scan and the results were to be ready to go over with Dr. Gaya at 3:00.  At the 3 o' clock appointment we learned that the server went down after 12 pm, and that the scan was inaccessible.  Jeff's oncologist was also leaving for Tokyo the next morning.  We left knowing very little and waited for five days while his doctor tried his best to access the scans from Tokyo.  We got the email three days ago, the night before Jeff left for round 4 of chemo.  Our patience and trust muscles have to be getting a little bigger.
 We are rejoicing that the cancer is not spreading.  We are thankful that the majority of the tumors are shrinking.  Hopeful that this will continue to work and Jeff will continue to tolerate the daily grind of chemo pills, hiccups, stent pain, and fatigue.  Jeff has always been a long distance runner in life and relationships.  He stays the course through wind, snow, or rain.  Slow and patient, he wakes up and trudges through whatever the day and symptoms throw at him.  He long distance runs in ministry, friendships, and as a husband and father.  It really is a blessing especially when we see such a long road ahead of us.  I don't have a doubt that he will run it well depending on a big God who can do impossibly big things.

I am a sprinter by nature.  Man I can run fast, but for a very short time.  And then, hopefully when no one is looking, my knees buckle and I dry heave.  I feel like I have been sprinting for a really long time.  Once the recent good news came through, my legs buckled on the path.   It hasn't been pretty.  And chocking out, "Really, I am good, I just need more sleep maybe," while sucking in breath and sobs, does not convince people you are doing okay.  My faith this week feels small.  My stomach clenches the minute my eyes flutter open.  The confidence I had last week, last month, feels lost in the getting through of the days.  But I also stared at a mustard seed and reread Luke 17:6 over and over.  Thankful for a friend who was willing to spare a mustard seed and not think I am crazy.

When Jeff and I pray together we ask for God to heal Jeff's body but to also heal our hearts, and minds.  To change the way we see things.  When something like this hits, you see so clearly how the suffering of the heart and mind can wreak as much havoc as the suffering of the body.  We don't want to come out of this unchanged.  I pray our hearts will be stretched far wider.  And that our minds will dwell on truth instead of fear.  Both Jeff and I have spoken to so many people who have walked through the deep waters of illness, grief, and pain.  Some have walked it alone, and others have just begun.  I know even on the knee buckling days, God will use us.  Because He is faithful to waste nothing.  Not one once of getting it right or hopelessly wrong,  Not a bit of the walking it out gracefully or dry heaving on the side line is wasted.  Faith as small as a mustard seed will uproot fear and despair.

We are tired as we approach the end of our first year in Scotland.  But we are tired and hopeful.  There is still so much to be done between now and the next two months.  The grandmas come in ten days and we are so excited.  Thank you for continuing to stand with us.  The emails, letters, cards, blankets, lego sets, and prayers have encouraged us more than we could ever express.
                                                               Much love, Becca