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

Friday, April 27, 2007

Repairs continue

Colonoscopy finished. And. . .they did find a malformed blood vessel that was "seeping" blood. The surgeon said he can't be sure that's what causing the anemia to be so resistant to treatment, but the oncologist believed that I was "leaking" blood somewhere. Leaking, seeping. Seeping, leaking. Anyway it is cauterized and seeping/leaking no more. Also removed a couple of pollups. So, I should be "all much better" (To quote my granddaughter when she was about 2) in that department.

I really feel fine. A bit sleepy still from the anesthesia OR, they really don't give an anesthesia, it's a twilight sleep with an amnesiac. Just what I need -- more memory loss!! But hopefully, I'll only forget that particular procedure!!

Gotta go! Music practice in 10 minutes. I had told Rod & Rob I might not be there, but I'm feeling fine. I might as well go.

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Coffee and Chemo

Sunday was such a lovely day. Teen challenge was here at church. I took Pastor Kathy by Rodney's house to pick up some music he donated. The girls were with me and the 7-year old discovered tree climbing. Rod has trees on which the branches are nice and low. Later the girls and I spent the afternoon at the park.


I must be clearing my system of the chemo. For the first time since chemotherapy began, I wanted coffee this morning. Anybody who knows me knows that I have always had a cup of coffee attached to my left hand from the time I get up (or leave the house) until noon or so. And if I stayed up late, it was with a lovely cup of coffee in hand. My favorite summertime Starbucks treat was Mocha Frappuccino, and there's a little coffee shop in downtown Elgin where I splurge on a Mocha Breve from time to time. I love Starbucks cards for gifts!! ETC! BUT for the last . . . almost year, coffee does not set well at all. Something about the chemicals from chemotherapy changes the taste and even the digestive process. It didn't hit my stomach well during this time.

The times they are a'changin'! Of course, I've been getting up earlier now -- at 6 a.m.  Being up early in the morning also brings on the coffee urges!!

Such is progress!

Pastor Phylis

Monday, April 23, 2007

On the Lighter Side

Good thing I'm feeling better. It was a busy weekend. Teen Challenge was here on Sunday. Then I had the girls for the afternoon as usual. Saturday both girls had soccer games, plus the usual getting ready for Sunday stuff. I'm really tired today. But it's a good kind of tired, not the sick kind!!

At the Family Christian Store with my granddaughter, she spotted a new line of dolls they have called Faith Doll.  The 12" ones are a little  larger than a Barbie, but with clothes to make outfits, etc. And who can resist that sparkle in a little girl's eye, so we left with the small dolls for her and her sister.  They both love them and have taken them everywhere. Saturday they went back and picked out another outfit with their own money.

I really like these dolls, because apart from the fact that the storybook that comes with each gives the story of a person and how they find Christ, the body image of the doll is so much better than the fashion dolls. They're actually shaped like a child, rounded torso, undeveloped. AND, the outfits are cute and fashionable, but within the range of decency.  They're not cheap, but I think we're getting rid of the Barbie stuff and going with Faith Dolls.

The five-year old didn't know what "Faith" meant so I explained that faith is believing in God. She didn't comment, but later she excitedly told her mom that they were "Sin Dolls". Funny that she knows the concept of "Sin", but can't yet remember "Faith." She's five, okay?

Her doll has brown leather sandals with tie straps. (The orange one pictured above) She was talking to me about how pretty her doll is and said, "I really like the sandals, Gramma."

"I do too. They kind of remind me of Jesus' sandals," I reply.

Very seriously, "I think they bought them at the Jesus Store." she answers.

If you see a "Jesus Store" around. Please let me know!! :)


Friday, April 20, 2007

Health Returning

As of this week, I'm definitely feeling better. I can function at about half my normal pace/rate/efficiency/energy, etc. This week I've actually cooked dinner each evening -- except yesterday when I went to a TMP meeting. (Don't ask. Related to my job.) Although today it required four trips to a store before I actually had everything I need. (I did say about half the efficiency? Okay sometimes less than half!) Don't ask about writing notes -- it's necessary to hold things in ones brain for the time required to write the list. I haven't arrive yet!!

The weather is also so much better. Got up to somewhere in the seventies today! Glorious. I did plant a few flowers this morning and bought the soil and stuff for the rest...but didn't have the energy for anything except the one area.

Tomorrow the girls have soccer games -- first of the season since the other two were canceled due to the extreme cold. It's supposed to be very warm -- as in maybe as high as eighty. Then Sunday they're predicting eighty-five. Maybe Spring has finally arrived!! Would be nice.

I have to finish dinner. No more blogging because I'm very bad at walking out of the kitchen with things cooking. I leave the result to your imagination! It isn't edible!!

Pastor Phylis

Monday, April 16, 2007

ChemoFog and Brainless reactions

Health Update
ChemoFog?? or just RattleBrained?

My mother used to tell me that if my head weren't fastened on, I would lose it. However, there's nothing like an official space-cadet on chemotherapy. It was really bad lately.

Sunday I went to a baby shower for a teacher at work only to discover that I was two days late. Written wrong on my calendar...correct on the e-invite I received.

Today after searching for a check for two weeks -- yes even calling the insurance company several times, I found it. BUT...only when I finally reached the correct person who said, "That check was issued and cashed on April 2". And before I could freak out completely, she added, "It was direct deposited into your account." And I remembered....that check has ALWAYS been direct deposited. I simply forgot and thought I was looking for a paper check!! Whew!

I had to call my primary care doctor's office to get the name of the doctor to whom he referred me. And I had already been to that Doctor's office once -- granted it was back in August, and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since August 2006 -- but I HAD been there.

I didn't exactly forget to post this blog...just got kinda busy this week and didn't get back to finish it. Besides it doesn't show me in the best possible light, so maybe it was a Freudian slip.

Enough on ChemoFog

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Health Update

Health Update
Yesterday was the third iron treatment. My blood count is up somewhat, still below normal, but rising. That is good. The doctor insists I go for a colonoscopy though to check for bleeding. He still thinks I'm losing blood somewhere.

I had a bit more of an allergic reaction to this one. When I got home my face, neck and shoulders were red and rashlike. I took a couple of Benedryl capsules and it went away. But then last night, I slept like a log. I fell asleep on the couch about 8:00 went to bed at 11:00 and didn't get up until almost 10 am today. Benedryl really knocks me out...but it also takes care of the reaction.

After the first couple of iron treatments, my "Sahara moments" returned with a vengence. A week ago, I had one during treatment. Now the doctor says those are also an allergic reaction.

I must be a master at understatement. The nurses were sure that the hot, turning red spells were simply an exaggerated hot flash. But once they actually saw one, they changed their minds and called the doctor who says "allergic reaction".  There's something to be said for being dramatic when describing medical symptoms!!

So I suppose I could have been much more comfortable months ago if I had simply taken Benedryl for "hot flashes" instead of Cohosh tea or Cohosh capsules. The Benedryl takes it right away. But they had me convinced that it wasn't related to chemotherapy except that chemo was killing estrogen to cause the hot flash. Even my description of a hot flash that lasts for as long as 10 hours and only could be endured by packing myself in ice didn't do what simply seeing me turn beet red in a matter of seconds did. Whatever! Not that it matters so much now...treatment is almost over. Maybe soon I can actually sleep through the night without being packed in ice.

Pastor Phylis

Friday, April 6, 2007

Health Update

Here I am with some hair growth...chemo eyes and all. It's taken into a mirror, hence, the flash from the camera. I just couldn't mess with the timer -- no patience!

I've had the second iron infusion and, honestly, I don't notice much difference. On Monday, my blood count was up slightly, which is good. There should be more gains this week. Bob tells me I have to be patient. I am sick of being tired, so I want more dramatic gains.

Yesterday, I ran a few errands (bank deposit, dry cleaners, pharmacy, fruit market) and picked up a granddaughter at 11 a.m. She ran errands with me and was no trouble at all. I took her to her favorite restaurant (Baker Hill Pancake House) and we had lunch. When we got home, I played checkers with her (an experience, playing checkers with a 5 year old) and then we watched a video until her mom came about 2:40. So I was active from 10:30 until 2:00.

After she left, I was absolutely too tired to do anything else for the rest of the day -- including evening. Didn't get up from my couch at all...well, almost not at all!! :) So I guess 3 1/2 hours of activity is my limit.

I suppose in the scheme of things, I'm grateful I could function fairly normally for the three hours. But I keep wondering when full strength will return!

Phylis Huerta

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Victory in Defeat

Of Palm Branches and Tribunals
Victory in Defeat
(Another piece of reflection)
Today is Palm Sunday. As we were waving palm branches and singing “Hosanna”, I could see myself as one of Jesus’ entourage.

As the colt slowly pranced through the streets, the crowds shouted “Hosanna”, and we exchanged knowing glances. At last, He was receiving the public acclaim we all knew He deserved. Suddenly the hardships of the journeyings of the last three years seemed worth it.

This was big, really big, bigger than those times He fed huge crowds with a few loaves and fishes; bigger than the lame man who walked; bigger than casting demons out of man at Gadarenes; bigger than stopping the storm. Even walking on water paled in our eyes as we watched the crowds joyfully giving Jesus the worship due Him.

And being the person I am, I, of course began making plans. With a crowd this size we’d have to find a place from which to address these people and others who would follow. Too bad it would probably have to be outside the city. Something about the city lent an ambiance of power and glory difficult to achieve in the countryside. After all, we had had large crowds in the countryside before. But now, in Jerusalem, with a crowd this size…it boggled my mind. Maybe we could find a suitable place in the city. Maybe Joanna knows a place, I thought. She’s familiar with the City.

We could barely control our glee. I could see it in the eyes of the others. Each wanted to get back to his village or neighborhood, knowing they would have heard about this.
Validation at last. “Yes, I’m with Jesus. I’m one of His people.” And they’d ask for special front row seats.

Our elation lasted for only a few days. You know the rest of the story.

By Friday night words and phrases used to describe the action include: seized, betrayed, spit in his face, struck with fists, slapped, buffeted, smote, scourged and crucify.
We were devastated.

So devastated that our stalwart, Peter, denied even knowing Him. Most of us either left or hid in the shadows, hoping against hope that no one would recognize us. We were ambivalent about Jesus seeing us. We wanted him to know we were still there but at the same time, we couldn’t escape the guilty knowledge that, like Peter, by hiding we were also betraying Him. 

Fear won the day. We remained in the shadows, afraid, yet hoping that at some point he would demonstrate His power. If He could still the rage of the storm, couldn’t He disperse these Roman soldiers and rampaging rioters? It should be small potatoes for Him. But no, the trial process wore on through the night.

And you know the story. The crucifixion came next. And then in the midst of our despair, we remembered: He said that he’d rise again after three days. Was this what He was talking about?

We still didn’t get it. All of us gathered in small groups to wait and see what would happen, wondering if the Romans would knock on the door and take us off to an equally gruesome fate. Or, would the unthinkable happen? Did He really mean He would come back from the dead? As in crucified?

And then word came. He had spoken to two of us on the road to Emaus. Then He had appeared to the eleven. And He left instructions. We were to wait in Jerusalem for “the promise of the Father.” Hopeful, we gathered to await this infusion of power that He promised. Alternating between enthusiastic hope and the sense of doom that had dominated during the trial and crucifixion, we waited until. Until He came as promised!
Today, we look at the events leading to the resurrection and understand clearly, without the crucifixion there would have been no resurrection. However, it’s much more difficult to apply to one’s own situation.

When does a grim situation lead to a victorious ending that will bring glory to God? When is a grim situation just a grim situation? Something that we must endure with courage and determination to follow Jesus no matter what.

Never was that question more on my mind than the weekend that Victor died.
We first met Victor in at 2 am when he arrived on our doorstep in Quito, Ecuador. We weren’t expecting anyone, but by that time in our mission, we were accustomed to students arriving without notice at whatever hour of the day or night. He had come from Peru to study at the Bible School we had established to train young men and women for ministry. Victor turned out to be not only a good student, but also a charming individual, who found a permanent place in our hearts.
Our little boys loved to play soccer with Victor. He had been a soccer prodigy in Peru, making the national team at the age of sixteen. However, like many youngsters, he didn’t handle the money and fame well. A few short years later, drugs and alcohol abuse led to bankruptcy, homelessness and despair. One evening he heard music and entered a small Christian church. Over the next few months, he cleaned up his life, discovered a talented for music as well as speaking and determined to serve in ministry. This desire led him to our training facility in Quito

When we left Ecuador to resume residency in the United States, Victor had just graduated from Bible School and was on his way to minister in Peru. Over the next several years we heard from him from time to time. We saw him at a conference in Salt Lake City when he accompanied another missionary to the U.S. Then, late one evening we received a call from a pastor friend in California. Victor had been holding meetings at various churches in California and had run out of places to go. My husband made some calls to arrange some services in California, Arizona and New Mexico, then here in the Chicago area.

Thus, Victor came to join our household. Since his English was very limited, he decided to stay in Elgin for awhile to study. Over the next 20 years he alternately went to college in Minnesota, traveled in Canada, returned to Peru for several months at a time, and obtained a real estate license here in Elgin. Eventually he married. He and Marta decided to settle in Elgin where their only son, Sammy, was born. They purchased a lovely condo, the ultimate American immigrant couple.

Then, Victor was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma. That dreaded “C-word”: liver cancer. 

Treatment after treatment failed. Gradually Victor’s condition worsened until it became obvious that the only way Victor would live was to have a living donor donate a portion of liver. After discussion with my family, and a great deal of soul searching, I volunteered. They turned me down. I was overweight, too old and not a relative. Nevertheless, I continued to pray about the matter, even tried uselessly to lose weight. Then a relative of Victor’s volunteered. Ironically, I lost 25 pounds without trying; his family member began testing to evaluate suitability. In a few months she was considered unsuitable. In my new slimmer condition, I called to volunteer again.

Throughout the entire process, I felt that I was led by God. His guidance was clear to me. Losing 25 pounds was a monumental event for me; I’ve struggled with weight control since I had children. During that time I had been praying daily for Victor, that a suitable donor would be found. It was no surprise to me that that donor was to be me. I believed it was divine guidance.

December 29, 2005 they removed two-thirds of my liver and replaced what was left of Victor’s liver. In the next three months I recovered, although at a slower pace than I had anticipated. Victor’s condition steadily worsened. The transplanted liver was viable and showed signs of growth, but from the beginning he developed an infection in one of the bile ducts. It never was fully healed and eventually Victor died of liver failure. It was February 22, 2006.

And I was left wondering if I’d heard the voice of God at all.

I still have no answers. I do still believe it was divinely ordained that I donate my liver, although it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, believed it should. Unlike the disciples who received an answer after a few short weeks when the Holy Spirit descended on their gathering, I’m still waiting for the illumination of what God was up to.

Today, however, I’m willing to rest in the knowledge that God knows what he is doing, that if God is in it there is victory no matter how it looks at the moment. This peace hasn’t come easily; I still have that drive to know why, what God intends, but I’m willing to wait for divine revelation. As long as it takes. In the meantime, I’ll rest in the knowledge that the final Victory is God’s and this is all part of the picture.
God's victory even in apparent defeat.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Until I was Diagnosed

(continued from March 30, 2007)

My sense of self-sufficiency followed me into adulthood and middle age. Even moving around the globe and across the nation didn’t shake it more than temporarily. The idea that “whatever life dished out, I could take or even fix,” remained firmly a part of my psyche.

Until I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suddenly I couldn’t even “fix” me!

It isn’t that there have not been other crises of faith in my life. Just before we left for the South American jungle with two boys aged eighteen months and two years old, I came face to face with the fact that I could not protect them, not even here at home. Through a couple of near-miss accidents, God taught me that I really had no power over the life or death of my children in the tamest of circumstances. At that juncture, I trusted God completely for the safety of my children. Looking back now, especially through a grandmother’s eyes, I marvel that I didn’t worry about the boys. I believed they were firmly held in God’s hands, whatever happened.

And they were!

With an amazing lack of fear, we moved into a cottage in the jungle, five miles from town. The first week, we killed an eight foot Bushmaster (the snake, not the firearm) who had taken refuge under our house. The Bushmaster, lachesis muta muta is the largest Pit Viper in the world with a nasty reputation as a "cruel dude". Granted, we did cut down all the bushes around the foundation in order to not provide adequate cover for cruel dude’s brother or mate. And although I would periodically peer under the house to check for predators, (Eventually I learned to watch the behavior of the chickens. If the hens wouldn’t go under the house, I kept the boys inside until someone found out what was there.) the boys still played outside in the yard with me in the house – far away if one is thinking of a Bushmaster attack. Often they accompanied our neighbors’ twelve year old son back into the jungle to harvest bananas or other crops. They’d return excitedly chatting about the sights they’d seen which sometimes included wild boars, jungle cats, and snakes other times it was colorful birds, a monkey or an armadillo. Was I out of my mind?!! No. I just knew for sure that on the back of that burro, accompanied by a twelve year old, they were as safe in the hands of God as if they’d been asleep in their beds at home.

However, there’s a major difference between having faith that bad things won’t happen, that God’s protecting hand is upon you and your children, and having faith in that same God when something bad has already happened. That is the supreme test of faith: to have faith that it is all in God’s hands, even when evils befall.

And I haven’t even been given a terrible prognosis. Doctors are optimistic that all the cancer has been removed by surgery or neutralized by the chemotherapy. It’s a matter of healing from wounds and chemo effects. And believing that it will not reoccur.

Since my diagnosis, I read statistics on breast cancer. I read obituaries in the newspaper of marvelous women who have fallen to the onslaught of the disease. I think it’s a bit like owning a white car. I was totally oblivious to white cars until my own car was white. Now, it seems that every third car on the road is white. Or is every third car on the road was always white, and I’ve just never noticed before? Every single day I read that there is someone dying from breast cancer. And my heart cries with David:

Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.” (Psalm 143:7)

One of the things I most love about David and his Psalms is his complete honesty. When he was in despair, he cried out to the Lord. He made no bones about it. His anguish was clearly expressed.

But the next thing about David was that he never left himself there. God give me that vision, that resiliency of Spirit! It was as though once he got it off his chest, he could then see things differently. His very next words remember God’s unfailing love.

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. 9 Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in you. 10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. 11 For your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. 12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant. (Psalm 143:8-12)

He saw afresh the goodness of God and was able to thankful, even in the midst of storm. He was able to see victory, even on dark days. He could rely on God completely which means he didn’t have to be self-sufficient.

More than his attitude, David was also aware of a balance that’s difficult to strike, the balance between using our God-given talent and abilities (something we are supposed to do) and relying on God. Something else we’re supposed to do. David talked about that too.

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. - Psalm 127:1a

There’s a paradox here; God isn’t telling me to sit on my gluteus maximus, but he is telling me that my self-sufficiency doesn’t do anything at all in terms of the Kingdom. I don’t have to worry about my waning strength; it’s useless anyway. I must allow the Lord to build. And there’s more.

Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for He grants sleep to those He loves (Psalm 127:1-2).

God is saying don’t sweat the small stuff – and in eternal terms, it’s all small stuff. There’s a way to obey Him, allow Him to work in our lives that doesn’t depend on my strength. In fact I can rejoice in my weakness, because it will showcase His Sufficiency, His Strength. I don’t have to fuss and worry about what the outcome will be because He controls it. Sometimes that outcome is more than I deserve. Sometimes it is less than I had hoped for. But if I look to Him and His strength, I can be sure that He controls that outcome whatever it is.

Even when I have breast cancer.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Repairing Chemotherapy

Repairing Chemotherapy

The girls were here on Sunday. She was busy being the architect and building a house for a couple of small stuffed animals. They were fascinated with the palm branches left over from the Sunday service. 

I went for the second of the iron treatments today. The doctor has ordered 4 to start. That's weekly just like chemo, but instead of it leaving me tired and weaker, I should feel better. Today was the first without chemotherapy. I probably will know tomorrow if I feel better. Although tonight I definitely feel better than when I've had chemo!!

I see the doctor next week. I may have more news then about what is next.

Pastor Phylis