ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Chemotherapy begins again

Chemotherapy Update

I start the next round of Chemotherapy on January 15, giving me time to recuperate from the allergic reaction. The doc has decided to change the med to Taxol and to use reduced amounts but with more frequency. So beginning January 15th, I'll be going every Monday for Chemo with additional steroids to try to prevent a reaction to this one. There's a very real possibility that I will react to this one as well, since they are they same class of drugs. So....time will tell.

I have no idea how I'll feel during this time with the infusion weekly and additional steroids. 

I guess this is a wait and see thing as well.   I appreciate your continued prayers.

Pastor Phylis

The End of 2006

What a year!! I started this year in the hospital at UIC in Chicago recovering from a liver donation, and I end it recovering from Chemotherapy and waiting for the next round. So many things between. A year of incredible blessing and a good share of suffering. I've learned much, but it's not a year that I wish to repeat.

Tonight, my granddaughters are here. They're working on scrapbooks. At age five and almost seven, they do a very good job. I got them cameras for Christmas, so we'll probably see many more scrapbooking days.

This is a lovely way to finish the evening with the girls. They'll sleep over and then we'll have breakfast at "Bacon HIll" (Baker Hill Pancake House) in the morning. A serene ending to a long, long year.

May you also find peace and joy as this year draws to a close!

Jehovah Jirah!
Pastor Phylis

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A new look at Psalm 23

Another look at the twenty-third Psalm:
One of my favorite email buddies, who also is my nephew, sent this to me some time ago. Thought I'd share it.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my Shepherd ----- that's Relationship!
I shall not want ----- that's Supply!
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ---- that's Rest!
He leadeth me beside the still waters ----- that's Refreshment!
He restoreth my soul ----- that's Healing!
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness ----- that's Guidance!
For His name sake ----- that's Purpose!
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ----- that's Testing!
I will fear no evil ----- that's Protection!
For Thou art with me ----- that's Faithfulness!
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me ----- that's Discipline!
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies ----- that's Hope!
Thou annointest my head with oil ----- that's Consecration!
My cup runneth over ----- that's Abundance!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life ---- that's Blessing!
And I will ! dwell in the house of the Lord ----- that's Security!
Forever ----- that's Eternity!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas 2006

At Christmas my hands were badly swollen and my feet would barely walk.  But worse was the allergic reaction to the previous chemo.   The best description is a Hot Flash on steroids!

Bob helps me open present

Later I had to add an ice pack to the Santa hat.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Just for fun, thought I'd post some pics of me...before and after. Hmmm. Let's see if this works. I think the "sickest" picture of me was the one Rodney took at the church Church Christmas dinner. However, when I exclaimed how "sick" I look, I was informed that at that point (at the beginning of the party) I looked good. I got really sick later -- I think I startled everyone. (The picture startled me!) Most had only seen my "well" chemo look at church. (Which is pretty "sick", actually!!)

The one of Bob and I is a "well" picture -- while I'm on chemo. It was taken two or three weeks ago. The purple shirt picture is from the weekend of JCC anniversary -- a couple of days before the lumpectomy and before chemo. It's amazing what four months can do with three surgeries and several quarts of poison (The doctors call it Chemotherapy) in the bloodstream. :)

Pastor Phylis

Friday, December 22, 2006

Headaches and Restoration


Caffeine is a wonderful thing. It's my next defense for headache. The other day I had had a couple of pain pills, drank a ton and a half of water, ice packed myself for awhile and everything else. But...I wanted to be there for the little girls pictures, so I had a Iced Mocha Cappuccino, blended. Not only did my headache go away, but I got really talkative! :)

These last three and a half weeks has been different. The days don't follow any pattern (You know, they're random, first Thursday, then Tuesday, etc! Ha! Just kidding) That is my well being doesn't follow any pattern. Randomly, I may be ill as can be all morning, then productive in the afternoon. Occasionally I'll get ill about 5 p.m. or 6 and be sick as a dog half the night. Sometimes it hits in the middle of the night. Right now, it's 2 in the afternoon and I just had to stop and take a Zomig for a pending headache. (Hopefully that will take care of it.) It doesn't seem to be related to activity, stress or any pattern at all. Perhaps the allergic reaction is irrational. My hands are much better now. Still peeling. And my feet are peeling like crazy. I have about three more weeks before anymore chemo. That's good.

So, I just take each day as it comes. If I spend the morning in a dark room with an ice pack, so be it. If I spend a night sleeping in my "sick chair" (That's what the girls call the comfy chair where I sit when I don't feel good.), then I just adjust plans for the day. Flexibility is the name of the game. But all in all, it's been good. I'm just about ready for Christmas. One more trip to the mall for a couple of small items and I'm done.

Here's for a Blessed Christmas to you and yours,

Pastor Phylis

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I've read two very good books lately. Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore is written in a very conversational easy to read style. (Integrity Publishers, a division of Thomas Nelson) Available at your Christian bookstore. I've already bought another one for a friend because I want to hang onto mine, but want to share the ideas.

The other is
The Angels of Morgan Hill by Donna VanLiere. (Publisher: St. Martin's Press, New York) I bought mine at Sam's Club. It's a novel about a small town in Tennessee right after World War II and how that town deals with discrimination, poverty, tragedy and learning to live and love. Easy Read. Restores faith in humankind.

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Allergic Reactions

The girls on the little one's birthday just before she opened her Bitty Baby Twins. She was convinced that morning that she was now bigger because she is five! My big girl will turn seven in January.

This allergic reaction has complicated things considerably. I haven't recuperated with my usual speed and panache. These weeks to rest and heal are needed. I don't actually feel terrible, I just don't feel all that good. My energy is low and I find myself spending much more quiet time than has ever been my custom. Quiet time is good. My propensity toward activity can become obsessive. (I hear family and close friends chuckling as they agree! Even as a toddler, my Dad said my middle name was "Go") So I'm learning to be still.

Is it really less than two weeks until Christmas??


Friday, December 8, 2006

Last night as I was falling asleep, I realized again just how fortunate I am. I'd had a bit of a rough day and went to bed early. Bob sat down and was reading the Bible. This is the last Psalm he read to me. It echoed in my Spirit. Hope it does the same for you.

Psalm 61
(The Bible in Basic English)
1 Let my cry come to you, O God; let your ears be open to my prayer.  
2 From the end of the earth will I send up my cry to you, when my heart is overcome: take me to the rock which is over-high for me.  
3 For you have been my secret place, and my high tower from those who made war on me.
4 I will make your tent my resting-place for ever: I will keep myself under the cover of your wings.
5 For you, O God, have made answer to my prayers; you have given me the heritage of those who give honour to your name.  
6 You will give the king long life; and make his years go on through the generations.  
7 May the seat of his authority be before God for ever; may mercy and righteousness keep him safe.  
8 So will I make songs in praise of your name for ever, giving to God that which is right day by day.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

It all depends on your focus!

A Sartorial Disaster

Anyone who knows me know that I like to accessorize. I have a significant collection of shoes, scarfs, hats, watches and costume jewelry. Everything MUST fit (not exactly match, but blend). There is a purpose for every accessory.

So when I say that on Friday night I showed up for music practice in a sadly mismatched get-up (there's no other word for it), you'd know there is something wrong.

Friday night music has become a weather vane for me. If I can make it to practice, and to church on Sunday morning, my life is on track. It provides a rhythm to my week. So my attention was on just getting there.

Before the excuses, let me describe my costume.

I had on a pair of navy fleece pants (I rarely wear fleece out of the house--only if I'm confident it will be covered by a coat) with a Kane County free-bee tee shirt with some kind of alien looking heads on the front. This was topped by a patchwork flannel shirt (Also not something I wear except to refinish furniture or plant flowers). I had on my old Ugg boots (Now Sheepskin boots are a must in certain kinds of weather up here. All sartorial concerns are off -- but I have a very stylish pair of purple Uggs) to keep my feet warm. I was doing well to even make practice, so I dispensed with the wig and wore a really cute hat that a friend just got me for my birthday. I wore the matching scarf and gloves. They were leopard skin fabric. The hat really would be better OVER a wig, it doesn't come down far enough to conceal the fact that I am very bald, but the scarf sort of covered the neck. Now the crowning jewel. I still had on two pair of dangling silver and purple earrings that I'd used on Wed and Thursday when they matched my outfit.

Did I mention white cotton medical gloves for my hands? My hands had to be kept covered with a steroid cream, so the gloves were necessary whenever I went anywhere or touched anything.

All in all, a classic bag lady outfit. (And my sincere apologies to any bag ladies in the vicinity.) The funniest things is that I was blithely unaware of my odd appearance. I was concentrating on trying to behave normally.

Okay...THE EXPLANATION...The fleece pants....I had had on a matching pullover shirt earlier (cranberry with navy trim). The odd t-shirt wasn't supposed to show, it was just under the fleece. BUT...I'd gotten warm earlier and taken the fleece off when I took a nap. When I got dressed for practice, I wanted something I could get off easier than a pullover in case I got hot at practice too.

The Patchwork Flannel...was just something handy to wear for the warmth of long sleeves over the t-shirt. (It did NOT blend with the pants)

The leopard print scarf, gloves and hat . . . were for warmth AND they were new and very cute (with the right outfit). I did have on a black leather coat that were okay with the hat and scarf.

The earrings . . . AH, here's a story. I've tried to be careful to keep earrings in both piercings. I don't want them to grow closed during this time. I'd used those earrings when I went out on Wednesday and Thursday (On Thursday I picked the outfit to match the earrings because my hands wouldn't work well enough to get earrings in.) So silver and purple they were.

The funniest part is that I wouldn't even have realized how bad I look except that one of my daughters said something on Sunday. At first I was startled, but then slowly realized just how out of character I looked. I must say I've had more than one moment of laughter.

And I'll never look at a bag lady the same again. She, too, is probably concentrating on just doing something normal to feel alive.

I have come out of hibernation or coma or whatever it may be called. Still a bit sore and slow, but alive and kickin'. I had an allergic reaction to this last Chemo. It's called hand and foot syndrome. My hands have been little more than clubs for the last week; thank God my feet aren't so bad. I've been able to walk, just very carefully. When it takes the palms of two hands to hold a phone or a drinking glass, one becomes very thankful for the use of fingers most of the time.

Chemo on the 27th was the first of the second set of treatments. Taxotere. I reacted significantly differently to it from the beginning. Less intense nausea, but I just felt worse. Than on Thursday night, my hands swelled up like paws. So for the last week, I've been on steroids and steroid cream to counteract the allergy. I now have fairly good use of the last two fingers of both hands and reasonable use of the first two fingers. Opposable thumbs are still stiff and not working too well. But it's much better.

My next treatment is now postponed until I recuperate from this reaction. My throat is sore too -- it feels like my insides may be as stiff and swollen as my poor fingers. But...the good news is not more chemo until after the holidays. The Doctor will come up with another option for my last three treatments.

So time marches on. I'm not sure where the last ten days have gone. I have spent most of the time sitting and snoozing. But I suppose the rest is good; it allows my body to keep up the battle.

Thanks for your prayers,

Pastor Phylis

P.S. I thought about gathering up those items and taking a photo -- but my energy is not that high today!!

Monday, November 27, 2006



I had a really good week last week with only two down days. Tuesday was a wipe-out. But I was active and felt good the rest of the week. I helped my granddaughters make a gingerbread house; M did the little tree in the entry way all by herself; I decorated the tree for the living room; Friday night the choir decorated the church. My contribution was the tree in the Narthex with the help of Christy and Bismarck. Saturday I finished the stuff at the house.

It caught up with me Sunday afternoon though. After lunch I took a really long nap (uncharacteristic for me) and didn't do anything else all evening, except eat. I started taken the steroid prepping for today's treatment and did it ever give me the munchies!!

Today is the first of the new set of treatments. The Doctor is positive about this med. He says it has less side effects than the first. (But then he said the first one wouldn't cause nausea! Ha!) So...we shall see. These are also supposed to be further apart, three weeks instead of two. I'm not sure how to reconcile that schedule with the idea that this one is less toxic. Hmmm.

Pastor Phylis

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This came to my box yesterday...a relevant devotional. Thought I would share it.

A Question of Ownership
TGIF Today God Is First, by Os Hillman
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. - Matthew 10:39

Otto Koning was a missionary in New Guinea. He worked among a native tribe that had known only their village ways. One of those village ways was stealing from others. When Otto and his wife arrived and moved into a hut, the natives often came by to visit. The Konings would notice that after the natives left the missionaries' home, various household items had disappeared. They saw these items again when they went to preach in the natives' village.

The only fruit Otto could grow on the island was pineapples. Otto loved pineapples, and he took pride in the pineapples he was able to grow. However, whenever the pineapples began to ripen, the natives would steal them. Otto could never keep a ripe pineapple for himself. This was a frustration, and he became angry with the natives. All during the seven-year period in which this took place, Otto preached the gospel to these natives, but never had a conversion.

The more the natives stole, the angrier Otto became. Finally, one day Otto had a German Shepherd dog flown in from another missionary to protect his pineapple garden after other frustrated efforts failed. This only further alienated the natives from him.

Otto took a furlough to the United States and attended a conference on personal rights. At this conference, he discovered that he was frustrated over this situation because he had taken personal ownership of his pineapple garden. After much soul searching, he gave his garden to God. Soon the natives started having problems among their tribe. They discovered that Otto was the reason for their problems because he gave his garden to his God. The natives saw a correlation between what Otto had done and their own lives being affected by calamities in their village. When Otto gave his garden to God, he no longer got angry and was free from worry. The natives started bringing him fruit from the garden because they didn't want any more calamities to come into their village.

The light came on one day when a native said to Otto, "You must have become a Christian, Otto. You don't get angry anymore. We always wondered if we would ever meet a Christian." They had never associated Otto with the kind of person he was preaching about because his message did not line up with his life. Otto was broken in spirit when he realized he had been such a failure.

At the end of seven years, he witnessed his first conversion, and many began coming to Christ once he fully gave his garden to God. The fruit grew so abundant that Otto began exporting it and growing other types of fruit, such as bananas. His village became the most evangelized in the whole region, yet for seven years he had not one convert.

Otto realized something each of us must realize: To gain your life you must lose it, along with your possessions. It was only when he gave all his possessions to God that he became free from them. God measured back to him manifold once He had complete ownership.

Do you have some possessions that you need to give up to God today? Let God have all that you have. Become a steward, not an owner. You will be surprised at how well God can take care of His possessions.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006



Capturing those memories! (This family is a bit camera nuts. That's almost 5 year old M2 with the digital, almost 7 year old M1 with the video, Rob and I both also manned cameras. It's Bob's birthday!   (And that's me in the wig!)

We've been married for more than 37 years and during that time have had a variety of Thanksgiving experiences. The first year we spent in the jungle (1976), I didn't have a stove yet, so for Thanksgiving we ate fruit, salad and chicken I grilled in an electric skillet. Some years we've had Thanksgiving with my Dad and eaten wild turkey, sometimes fried instead of baked, and venison for dinner. Or other times we've spent with Aunt Lois and had traditional turkey and all the trimmings. Last year my sister and her kids and grandkids were here and we had a traditional meal here.

I was just looking at the words to "Inconvenient Christmas" and began thinking about Thanksgiving adventures. This year will be calm. The kids are coming Wednesday night -- They're cooking. (No one lets me cook these days. They say I look too tired.) Then Thanksgiving Day they go to their in-laws and it will be Bob and I with Bismarck. Should be very laid back and easy...Except in the evening the little girls are coming to spend the night so Mommy and Aunt Christy can hit the early morning shopping of "Black Friday". (I'd rather poke a stick in my eye than brave the crowds that day!) But we've had our share of "inconvenient" Thanksgivings. But somehow they turned out to be Thanksgiving blessings!

I can't remember exactly which year it was that we got stuck in Bloomington on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. The boys were young -- high school students -- and Wesley was with us. Our car broke down as we were taking the bypass through Bloomington intending to stop and eat. Instead we just stopped. It was right in front of a car lot. So while we tried to decide what to do, the boys played hide and seek in the car lot and the ditch beside the road.

We finally got the car started, and it sputtered to the nearest hotel. Early next morning we were trying to get it started again and decide whether to try to return to Elgin or keep going to St. Charles, Mo. Another guest ready to leave the hotel helped...he actually knew a bit about car mechanics. We mostly stood around with the hood open and looked on in despair. He said it was the alternator, helped us find a mechanic shop open that would sell one on Thanksgiving morning, and he put it in. Come to find out they lived in St. Charles and were headed to Chicago. For several years afterwards we exchanged Thanksgiving cards, but have since lost track of such nice people sent by God to be a blessing to us.

Then there were a couple of snowstorm Thanksgivings. When Rob was just a baby we were driving back to Chicago on Sunday. A huge snowstorm hit. We had to park for awhile. Then ran out of milk for the baby and nearly out of gas for the car. Nothing was open on that deserted stretch of Rt 55. Finally in desperation we pulled off into a small town. A restaurant was open, but had no milk. The lady went to her house and got some for us. Then she called the owner of the gas station alongside who came and let us fill up the car. (This WAS 35 years ago!!)

Another snowstorm, the boys were elementary school age. The snow was so bad, again we had to pull off. But this time we cut off the car for awhile so we wouldn't run out of gas. That time it was also terribly cold....waaaaay below zero. I remember reading later that several stranded motorists had died from the cold. We did have blankets in the trunk. So we wrapped up and huddled together in the car for awhile to let the snow clear a bit. God was merciful. The snow cleared and we made it through without further incident.

Another year, another adventure. May your Thanksgiving be filled with blessings. May you find adventure and blessing in those unexpected events. Look for God's hand in all things, even the apparent disasters. You will find that his blessing is there, just reach for it.

Pastor Phylis

Friday, November 17, 2006

An Inconvenient Christmas

Did you know that as of tomorrow there are five more Saturdays before Christmas? And there have been 47 Saturdays since the last one?
I know this because the Christmas season just arrived at my house...It's arrival was signaled by "The Most Inconvenient Christmas." Now I know my non-Southern Gospel friends will sneer a bit...but that song is still one of my favorites since I discovered it a few years ago. Somehow at Christmastime I need a bit of my roots to remind me just where I come from. While "The Oak Ridge Boys" may not be your cup of tea, you really should listen to that one song at least. I must confess though that the hard rrr's on the "forever" in the Hallelujah Chorus does strain even my Southern a bit. My older granddaugahter (with all the wisdom of her six years) reminds me occasionally when those rr's trip me up! But I'm with her, on a recording "foreva" just seems more appropriate, linguistically speaking.

I think I have welcomed the Season early this year for several reasons. Due to my computer problems, I've been downloading and transferring Pictures and Music.  The Christmas ones caught my attention.   Secondly, with my good days and bad days, I've been trying to find ways to make this season meaningful, but I must do it a little at a time.

But more than that, I don't think I've ever been more grateful or happier to celebrate the Season. This year has been full of such ups and down. So many times I thought that emotionally (or physically) I would crash and burn...but just at the right time, a Word from God arrived. Sometimes it was an email, sometimes a card in the mail, sometimes a plant or bouquet of flowers reminding me that someone cared. Sometimes it was the kind act of a friend or acquaintance that reminded me that He is still in control. 

More often, it was Bob offering to get me a fresh glass of water, or bringing me a freshly peeled orange when I couldn't sleep at 2 AM. Sometimes it was the pitter patter of small feet and a "Grammie?" that came rushing in the door of the house or the church that lightened my heart and made me realize that though this has been an inconvenient year, I'm here. And I'm grateful.
If you want to hear/see the song click on the link at the title of this blog for my own homemade video version of Inconvenient Christmas

Okay....just for you really non-Southerners out there who will never listen to the song even for a minute, here are the words from "The Most Inconvenient Christmas". Prepare to belly laugh!! It comes across much better WITH the music. Trust me!

"Among the bills that I'd received
Was a postcard marked "Apologies"
The Christmas gifts you've ordered aren't in stock
So I packed up the kids for Grandpa's House
Then a blizzard blew in and the car broke down
So we shared a quart of eggnog at a truck stop
And I said; Kids, this is unfortunate
You think it's bad? Well, it's inconvenient

But the most inconvenient Christmas ever was
Was the first one when God came so far
To give Himself to us
So when stress hits each December
How it helps me to remember
God is with us most when things just can't get worse
The Most inconvenient Christmas ever was...
Was the first

By the time we got to Grandpa's house
His Christmas lights had burned it down
So we had to take him home to live with us
But he couldn't stand to leave the farm
So now there's cattle in our yard
Sheep on the rug, Pigs in the tub and a rooster at dawn
And I said: Now Honey, this is unfortunate
You think this is bad? Well, it's inconvenient

(Repeat Chorus)

A young girl expects a child she can't explain
Forced to walk a hundred miles just to give birth in the hay
Wile the king at that same hour
Fearing challenge to his power
Sent his troops to track them down and wipe them out
Yep, hand down...

The most inconvenient Christmas ever was
Was the first one when God came so far
To give Himself to us
So when stress hits each December
How it helps me to remember
God is with us most when things just can't get worse
The most inconvenient Christmas ever was...
Was the first.

A a very Merry 5 Saturdays to you!!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hair Loss

I said someday I'd post the hair cut pictures. So here they are. At the top I had cut my hair really short because it had just begun to shed. The picture is when it was shedding still more, even short. The short "do" lasted for a week. (I lost the pictures of the first hair cut when my computer crashed). That night it was bald on the right side where I sleep. So I just stood over the sink and combed and patted the hair out. It came out by the handfuls, leaving me with about 20 hairs. I asked Brad to come with his shears to finish the job. My granddaughters recorded it all! One on video, the other on the SLR.  The last photo is of me the evening of Oct 31st at the girls' celebration. My "chemo" eyes are evident. That's about what I look like today.
Later I'll post one with the wig...I don't have one handy at the moment -- and maybe one now, when I'm totally bald. :)


Pastor Phylis
I have arisen! As usual nausea and illness hit 36 hours after infusion...that was about 4:00 a.m. today. I spend the morning in a chair, napping and trying to keep various nausea and headache pills down. About noon, after Bob came in with iced tea from Panera (I don't know what they put in their tea, but it is very mild and calming) I graduated to the couch with enough energy to watch TV Land for awhile. (Bonanza still reruns!) Before I went totally brain dead from old TV, I managed to stagger to my computer and answer a few emails. Voila' I have arisen! Hopefully, the worst of this episode is behind me.

Monday was the last of this series of four. Now there is a new series of four that I will learn about next Monday. (Along with more booster shots for red and white blood cells! I am a veritable pin cushion -- correction, that would technically be needle cushion!)

I'm so hoping that the effects of the next series are less severe. I really need to get back to work after Christmas. One semester is all I can do on disability. After that it's the poor farm. But God has it all in control!

Now the holiday season is upon us. First Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Not to mention that four of these eight Huertas have birthdays in November with one in October and one more in January. Christy and Bradley had the good sense to be born in June and July! So we shall be celebrating regularly for the next several weeks.

Last Sunday was our "Christmas Child" shoebox collection. That's always a precious time. Filling shoeboxes to be sent to all four corners of the earth as gifts for children who have not even the basic necessities.

And speaking of basic necessities...My dear husband is here. So let's have a cup of soup for dinner!

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Looking up

There is something wonderful about a good night's sleep. I've actually had four consecutive nights. Not last night, but that's okay. I'm still feeling better. Yesterday I had the last infusion of this protocol. I see the doctor on Monday, and we'll set up the next protocol. Change of drug...maybe change of timing. But this week is the last of the hangover from this particular drug. 

In two or three weeks, it's a new ballgame. I'm now halfway through the infusions, although the next set may take more time. He's talking about three weeks between treatments.

I will look to the hills from whence cometh my help.  My help comes from the Lord."  
Psalm 121:1

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

On the Mend

Finally! Good news. I feel better. I was beginning to wonder if I had developed an "invalid" frame of mind and would mope through the rest of my life. Then, after a last bit of "sick" this morning, I believe I'm on the mend. I still have a bit of a cough, but I feel like I can face life and the next treatment.

I did go back to the Doctor this afternoon for another CBC (blood test), and my counts are moving up. Not enough yet, but up. (Maybe another reason I feel less "sick". Having a few red blood cells makes one feel a bit more lively.) Both the white cells and the red cells had been terribly low. But I've already had a blood booster last Monday (10 days ago) and another this Monday (3 days ago) and they said they can't give me anything else right now. I'm supposed to go back on Friday to see if the improvement continues. I suspect it will be better since the flu is gone and that was affecting me as well. I don't know if there's anything they can do on Friday or not, except delay the last treatment. Wait and see.

God is good. All in His time. Today, I'm simply grateful that I feel alive!

Pastor Phylis

Monday, November 6, 2006

Another week passes. Some days it seems my life is in a holding pattern, yet I know that in this, too, God has a purpose. Life isn't really passing me by while I remain static. Even at this slower more painful pace, life happens. Such an interesting lesson. Life is today.

I so recall anticipating our arrival in Ecuador as missionaries. It seemed to me that at that point, my life would start. I'd be doing "real" ministry. As I look back now, it's almost funny, nothing really changed except geographic location and the nature of some day-to-day activities. But those activities still including caring for two very young children, preparing meals, shopping, doing family activities, teaching classes and going to church. In truth the same tasks I'd spent time doing here in the US.

The proverb, "Life is a journey, not a destination" holds true now, as then. Life is in the living, the daily grind, the mundane activities of living. More often than not, it takes vision and purpose to see past the mundane, to see the purpose in what we do. So I'll leave you to ponder that thought. I don't think I can prose on about the purpose in suffering right now. Maybe later.

Besides Chemo last Monday, I got the flu. It seemed as though all the symptoms just morphed and I spent most of the week groaning and wondering if and when things would get better. I think I'm out of the woods now. I go get a CBC this afternoon; those blood count numbers tell all. I'll know then if indeed I'm on the road to recovery and ready for another session next Monday or if some other intervention is required.

On a positive note, I made it to church Sunday...missed Friday night. The service was wonderful. God never disappoints! Our youth group had participated in "Acquire the Fire" on Friday and Saturday and they were excited as never before. It's great to see the youngsters lively and participating. I also managed to sing, a bit breathlessly, but I made it through the songs thanks to our team who knows how to cover for me!

Jehovah Rapha!!

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The picture isn't pretty

It's been just over a week since I posted last...Yesterday I had another chemo session, number 3. The second one had a pattern almost identical to the first. For 24 hours I felt fine (That means I have until 3:00 this afternoon), then the nausea set in, with accompanying headaches. So for three days, I mostly sat and decided what to try next. Ice Packs, more meds, which ones? how to keep the pills down, etc. Such a life!

The migraines are the major difficulty. They have three sources, all of which require different treatment. The usual migraine, from stress or God knows what, for which I have my migraine medication. Then the headache from the chemo which is slightly different and nothing much seems to work, since it's related to the nausea, that med works better than anything. Then since this treatment has thrown me into the middle of menopause (Groan, yes something else to cope with) hot flashes cause mega headaches which respond only to an herbal (Black cohosh) to reduce the body temperature. This all lasts for about a week. Seven days later, I can set most of the pills aside and slowly resume life.

Bottom line: anything I want to do between now and next weekend, I'd better do today!! I'm hoping for enough of a reprieve to get out to see the girls in their costumes early this evening.

After my week of chemo struggles, my computer crashed. The motor in the hard drive refused to work. So....I lost all of my data on the hard drive. Unfortunately the most recent pictures were there...I lost tons of them. All of the hair cut pics...I have some of the totally bald of these days I'll be brave enough to post them. But not today.

Since the DVD drive was already defunct and the computer is of course out of warranty, we decided to replace it. Rob is our computer specialist, so he purchased, formatted, and installed my new computer, only to have the fan on it freeze and eventually the entire thing froze. So two days into the new computer, it had to be returned for another. Rob did recover my hard drive, so the pics that had been in the camera and I had downloaded were rescued. Computers! Love the things when they work. But when they don't.... Today, however, this little baby is purring along very well.

I'm debating. Should I even post this?? It sounds...well ...complaining. I'm really not complaining. God has been good. One bad week, one good week is more than some people get. FOr that I'm grateful. This isn't going to last too terribly long either. Since #3 is under my belt (or in my veins!) there's only one more to go on this protocol. The second protocol also consists of 4 treatments. I don't know what side effects I'll have from that one. Maybe not as severe. This one is supposed to be the awful one...referred to by chemo patients as "The Red Devil" The fluid is actually red.

Enough. I'll try doing something much more upbeat next time.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Chemo Continues

Chemotherapy today actually happened. My white cells responded to the booster and were just barely in the normal range. I still have significant anemia. Maybe I should try just good old-fashioned Geritol. It was advertised for Iron-poor blood. Mine is! So far, so good. I feel okay tonight. But then last time it was the day after and the day after that when I had difficulties. I appreciate your prayers.

I still can't enter pictures. This computer doesn't have Moxilla Foxfire which enters the pictures on Blogspot much better than Internet Explorer. They just are not being read, although it says they are uploaded! I found copies in my email that I had sent out, so was able to get the pics stored on this computer. But, alas, further technical difficulties.

I suppose when my computer is up and running again, I'll enter a picture page of the progression of my hair. It's getting worse. The haircut worked well for Sunday, but this morning the right side that I sleep on will barely cover the receding hairline (bald spot, actually). And on the top the part is about an inch wide. Today I could still more or less cover by combing backward (Not a Donald Trump overcomb!!) and having no part. But by tomorrow the right side will be gone and the top bald. 

Solution: Tomorrow night Bradley is bringing his Barber clippers and off my hair goes. I'm thinking I'll do just a short male kind of cut--really short on sides and about half an inch on top. Kind of like a flat-top. Then I can still see what is happening, and use just my hair around the house, etc. But for going anywhere--the wigs are ready and waiting!!

It will be a metamorphosis in hair loss....I'll have to do a picture series.
God is good! Mercy and Grace, Lord.

Pastor Phylis

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Very Bad Days

I think I'm related to the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. You know the one. When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid. :) Well when I feel very very good, I'm too busy to blog. When I feel very very bad, I'm too sick to think well enough to blog. So I have to be in-between in order to be able to reflect and have the time to write.

It's 3:30 a.m. I'm not feeling very, very bad, just achey and sleepless. So....time to catch up!

Beginning today:
I went for my second session of Chemotherapy, but my white blood cells were too low. So instead they gave me two shots (The red has been low for some time) and sent me home again. But...I think because the red cells are actually up a bit, the white doesn't affect my I felt pretty good today.

Thankfully, I felt good because I'm shedding like a shaggy dog. I didn't notice until I washed my hair this morning. My hair isn't coming out in handfuls, more just little bunches of 5-10 hairs at a time (No! I didn't stop to count. That's a guestimate!) I had braced myself for chemotherapy today and believed that the hair loss would probably start a few days later, since there was no noticable effect after the first session. I was guessing 5-7 days after the second. Well...mine is going two weeks after the first. I thought I might have a Hallelujah breakdown...but I didn't.
I just decided that the loose hair in my face was annoying, so I got a very short haircut. It gives me a different look which I wouldn't choose, but it's okay.

My computer has chosen this moment to go on the fritz, so the pictures I planned to download with my new hairdo are stuck in my hard drive at the moment. (I'm on a borrowed computer.)

Yesterday I went for my second chemotherapy appointment, but couldn't have it because my counts were too low. So today, tomorrow and Friday I get a shot to build up my white blood cells and then we try again on Monday. The only difficulty with that shot is that it makes my bones ache -- like the flu. Interesting isn't it that stimulating bone marrow to produce makes the bones ache. Is that what makes one ache so much with a virus -- the bone marrow is overactive?
Since I haven't written for over a week, I'll go back to the aftermath of the first chemotherapy session. After being sick as a dog (Hmmm shedding like a dog, sick as a there a theme to these metaphors?) for those three or four days, Bob called the massage therapist who has helped me before. She said that I might be reacting to dehydration and "prescribed" Gatorade. Voila'! Two days and countless bottles of water, Gatorade and even Propel, I felt much better. I do so have to watch hydration. I need to drink about a gallon of water a day -- yes! 128 ounces!! That's a lot of liquid, especially since coffee doesn't count! Although when I'm so nauseous, coffee doesn't taste good. I still like the IDEA of coffee, but the liquid itself doesn't go down well.
So after re-hydrating, I did fairly well for a week. The biggest problem as far as I FEEL, is that I have a constant nagging headache, ready to explode into full-blown migraine. Mostly, I can keep it in check with water or Propel (Propel does have a small amount of sucralose which isn't particularly good, but that's the smallest I'm using it, since watered down Gatorade just doesn't sit well unless I'm really dehydrated)
That takes us up to today -- or actually yesterday at this point -- Wednesday, to be precise. And the low white cells. Skipping Wednesday's chemo does put my schedule off-kilter. Getting back to school can only occur after I have a reasonable white count otherwise every kids with a cold is a deadly weapon to me. Since I see 125 or so kids a day in an enclosed environment, 25 at a time, that's a lot of weaponry aimed at me. So I'll just skip it for now. :)
And that's been my very very good, and very very bad weeks lately!
I'll add pictures whenever my computer decides it will actually begin working again! I've re-started it a couple of times. No luck. I just did the old "unplug the thing" trick. We'll see if that remedies my problem or if my computer is dying of old age. (The silly things have a very short lifespan!)

Pastor Phylis

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

A Very Wise Six Year Old

A very wise six-year old

On Monday I really wanted to go to a conference held in Wisconsin. It's a bit over an hour from here and we weren't sure I was really up to it...but I had been eating a bit on Monday, so I decided to go. Rodney was driving. Bob and I rode with him. I made a bed in the back seat (no highway patrol reading this???) with a comforter and several pillows so I could lie down. I packed my emergency supplies...paper towels and a strong plastic bin, plus one of each med...just in case nausea hit again. It was funny. The back seat was full with just my stuff! It was a wise choice, however. I did not get ill, was able to rest, and the conference was wonderful!
Bishop Joseph Garlington was the speaker and was inspirational, entertaining, but most of all anointed. I'm paraphrasing some of the ideas and expanding or reflecting on others that apply to me. I hope it helps you as much as it did me.

Luke 13:12-17

"12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. 15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? 16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? 17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him." (King James Version)

There are two definitions for the word ought. The first, is a duty or correctness, especially in critizing. (One ought to do thus and so.) The second, is a desirable or expected state. (If I work hard, I ought to succeed.)

The pharisee was CAUGHT BY THE OUGHT. Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath and the ruler of the synagogue rebuked Jesus for healing her on the Sabbath. "You ought not heal on the sabbath." Never mind that the woman had come for worship because the synagogue WAS OPEN on the sabbath and was not generally open on other days. Jesus wisely turned the tables on him by using the same phraseology, "This woman is a daughter of Abraham and she ought to be healed, especially since this is the sabbath." The Synagogue Ruler was "caught by the ought." Jesus used his own words to defeat him. The crowd recognized the correctness of Jesus' actions and freely rejoiced.

T.D. Jakes has recorded a sermon (and a movie, I think? If not, it should be!) about this same passage: "Woman, Thou Art Loosed." If you haven't heard the CD or read the book, I highly recommend it. Both are available through
I've reflected a great deal on the thought of "ought to be healed." It's especially applicable right now as I'm in the throes of chemotherapy, the last step on my road to wellness. I do believe that we live in a multi-dimensional world. There's the physical reality that we see, an intellectual reality in our minds, there's a powerful psychological reality that affects both mind and body, sometimes it controls both mind and body. 

But there is another transcendent reality - - that of the spiritual. We access God and angels in that spiritual realm. I contend that there is a complete world out there of which we only glimpse shadows or sense the depth of it. A reality that includes not only God and His angels, but also the fallen Lucifer and his angels.
It is the wish of Lucifer that we all be destroyed, condemned as was he. Using a parable and the metaphor of a thief, Jesus speaks of the conflict of these two worlds. 

John 10:10 "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

I've stated before in this blog, only partially in jest, that I think that this disease, Breast Cancer, comes from the pits of hell since both the disease and then it's current cure, strikes at the heart of all that is feminine and Godly! In fact, cancer of all sorts, the human body turning against itself, seems to me as though it must come from that nether-worldly area.

So, although I shall continue to use all means within my power to gain wellness, the physical (medical), intellectual (positive thoughts), the psychological (maintaining a positive attitude), I also believe that God ought to heal me: my reliance on the spiritual. And of all worlds, the spiritual is transcendent! Of that I am sure!

Hebrews 4:10 "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." 

I love the way children come up with truths. We were driving in the car the other day and out of the blue my very wise little six-year-old granddaughter offered this piece of advice, "Grandma, when we pray, we can't just ask God for what we want."
"No, Grandma, that would be telling God what to do. We tell him our problem and He sends an answer. Sometimes it isn't even the answer that we want. But it's always the right one."
AMEN! Today, God I need Mercy, and Grace to help.

Pastor Phylis

Monday, October 2, 2006

My sister and I at a cookout a week ago.

New wigs from Lulu's Wiggin' Out

This blog is actually out of order. Stuff from the previous weekend...I wrote only a bit that Sunday. I was really tired and the headache had begun.

So...for some happier stuff.
Hair loss hasn't occurred yet. Though some say it takes a few days after the second infusion for that to occur. I'm pretty much ready for that. My sister was here (9 days ago now) and we went "cranial prosthesis" shopping. (No, I may need a new brain -- I think that would be cerebral prosthesis -- but for the vocabulary challenged, think cranium, top of head!) :) There's a hint at the top of the page!

It was fun. Sisters are like that...anything from the grueling to the trivial can be fun when done together! A wonderful place for wigs was "Lulu's Wiggin' Out" in our own Algonquin. Right on main street. A terrific selection and really, really helpful people who let me try on nearly every wig in the store! It's a tiny shoppe with an enormous inventory, so the shop looked like me on a tear through my closet by the time we finished two hours of wiggin' out! I did buy two...pictured above.

So...a word to those who know me: If I show up in that darker and shorter one, it means the hair has fallen out. That's my new look. After all what's the fun of a new wig if it doesn't have some fun attached! I was looking for an even shorter spike in about the color I have now, but couldn't find the right one. They actually had the cut and could have ordered the color, but every wig company has slightly different colors. I found that colors very close just aren't the same. One I would like a lot, the other not at all. The strawberry one almost like mine now has to be worn with a hat or wig, but gives me a more 'normal' look, for those days when I want things to seem normal.

My 'old' Ellis friends will recognize the hat I stuck on the longer wig. Remember my hat days? (Before I was asked to cease and desist.) They're comin' back. I have to rediscover my hats!

But who knows? My 4-year old granddaughter insists that wigs are unnecessary because my hair may not even fall out. (T'would be nice if she were prophetic!)


I haven't written because I haven't had the emotional (for the beginning of the week) or physical (end of the week) strength to do so. Blogging is good for me, but I have to be "in the groove" and this time I lost my groove. Isn't there a kids book about somebody getting their groove back? Seems it was a camel....the only "lost groove" story I could find referenced was NOT a kid's story! Anyway, this morning I feel as last back to semi-normal...enough sanity to reflect on what's happened with a headache only lurking in the background.

Ah, the joys of chemotherapy! If I had a choice, I'd take surgery, any day. Such a choice: Poison? The knife? Ehh! The actual process is fairly benign. One simply sits while the stuff drips in, drop by drop. I had had a migraine for a couple of days before chemo and hesitated taking my full migraine med. MISTAKE! So that I was still headachey on that day. That day and the next, I felt slightly flu-ish and the migraine accelerated slowly .

Then on Friday, it hit! The full whammy. For the next 48 hours I could drink nothing and even so my stomach did full-fledged convulsions every two hours...on the hour. I finally managed to eat a bit of banana to get the anti-nausea pills down. Finally sometime Friday I realized that the anti-nausea was reacting to cause the migraine. (At this point nothing produced relief) After calls to the doctor and changing pills three times, I managed to drink sips of Propel during the night Saturday night...which saved me the joys of a hospital visit and intravenous fluids. Then Sunday morning, I added water and finally iced tea to my diet of bits of bananas and Propel sips. By evening I had eaten a few bites of rice, a bit of soup and even a couple of bites of chicken....Hurray!

Today I managed oatmeal and a piece of toast for breakfast, so maybe the stomach gymnastics are over for this round. The Dr. did tell me to be sure to taken the anti-nausea stuff a couple of days before the next infusion of chemo. That might stave off the fury of my stomach. He did say that only about 20% of patients have this reaction to what I'm taking. (Sure glad it isn't the stronger stuff! Now there's a reason to rejoice)

Only three more infusions of this (the Red Devil plus some other, I don't have the names down yet). Then four of the next regimen. I need to do some research on the next one and see what I can expect. If it's like this one, ugh! I suppose the upside is that I might lose a few pounds. . . hard way to go though. I think I'd prefer Weight Watchers.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Calm before the storm

The weekend was lovely, in spite of the storms and rain. We managed to avoid the storm clouds Saturday least for the picnic at a friend's house. Saturday was a lovely evening, a pleasant gathering with good friends.


Then on Sunday, the girls and I spent time at the park. Bright sunlight sparkled on the water, although in the shade a cool breeze produced a bit of a chill. Still, it was a gorgeous day. We visited the ducks, geese, buffalo and deer at the park.

I need to remember these sunshiny moments in the midst of a stormy weekend as I approach the beginning of Chemo this week -- my own personal storm.

"God, make me conscious of those moments, hours and days of sunshine as I face my Nemesis beginning this week." (I'll give more chemotherapy details later.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tales from the O R

Tales from the OR

This lovely little gadget (shown in the circle) is now embedded in my chest. It will serve to facilitate chemotherapy in that the medicine-bearing needle will be inserted into that little circle inside the triangle and thereby head straight to my veins. It will avoid the searching for a vein in my arm every time I have chemo. It's such a cute little thing, you'd thing it would be seen, but alas, it resides under my skin. All that can be seen is a little bump near my clavicle. It's a bit sore, but the major discomfort is the feeling that I have a straw up my neck . . . which, in essence, I do. That white wire goes up the neck through my vein to guide the medicine to the right spot. Ah the wonders of modern medicine.

This surgery was a bit different though. I was awake during the procedure, woozy, but awake. Since this little gadget is the latest in the line of medi-ports, the company rep was also in the operating room. So while the doctor is installing this lovely little gadget in my flesh, they're discussing how this one is different from the previous model. Nothing like being awake while you're the guinea pig. :) The major difference is that this one will take the contrast for the CeCt if it had been installed last Tuesday, I wouldn't have had to wear the IV needle on my arm for most of the day!

I also got my instructions for care and use of the port at the same time the recovery room nurses received their in-service on the new devise. Uhmmm...nothing like being first.

Obviously, I'm feeling better today. Yesterday afternoon and evening I was not so cheerful. I came home too tired to even bother to eat some soup. I just slept most of the afternoon. Then I had a headache which turned into migraine for the evening and night. I took my migraine medicine at 5 am this morning and now feel much better. They gave me a script for Darvosett, which I didn't even fill. That stuff gives me hallucinations. I have to be in such pain that tripping is better than the pain (even in the 60's I wasn't into tripping) I just took Tylenol and Aleve for pain, which was fine for the soreness in the insertion site, but didn't do anything for the plastic-straw-up-the-neck feeling that jabbed me every time I moved, and it didn't begin to touch the Migraine.

But that was yesterday. Today I made it to breakfast, actually ate real food...then had homemade, fresh from the apple orchard, apple pie that Bradley made for dessert. (I know, but I'm sick. I'm allowed to have dessert for breakfast.)

My hemoglobin count is still too low...I HAVE to remember to take the iron tablets they gave me! That's the problem with going from healthy-as-a-horse to this semi-invalid state in one month. I have trouble remembering to take meds; I've had to make a list of Doctors and phone numbers in order to remember those; And I can't say how many times I've had to call and check on times of appointments...I'm trying to keep it all in my calendar now. They asked me the date of my last blood test and I had to say .... duh .... the other day at Dr. Y's office. Maybe about the time I get the knack of being ill, I'll be well again and can just forget it all!!!

Hurray for forgetfulness...I'm going to be very God-like and throw this entire episode into the Sea of Forgetfulness. One day soon!!

For forgetting.

Pastor Phylis