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March 13th, 2010 Update

March 13, 2010

Cindy and I live every day in confidence that God has healed her.

But here’s the thing: The only way we will know whether God did heal her is if she and I live together as husband and wife for another 30 years or so.

What I mean by that is – we live in full understanding that the type of triple negative breast cancer that has metastasized to her brain, lungs and lymph nodes is an extremely aggressive cancer. And what may seem like a momentary victory can come sweeping in all over again like a mighty storm.

That’s what happened last week. I mentioned in my previous update that the one remaining brain lesion had not improved…bummer. What I didn’t tell you, primarily because we didn’t know the details, is that the one stubborn tumor has now been joined by about tw0 dozen additional lesions. They’re tiny, but they emerged within the span of one month! So either the earlier scan didn’t spot them or they are growing at a rapid rate.

We have spent much of this week trying to determine our next steps. So…that’s prayer need numero uno. We need God’s wisdom in choosing how we respond to this news.

Our first decision is that Cindy will undergo a Gamma-knife procedure this Tuesday morning. This is a very targeted radiological procedure that can be every effective in treating such lesions. Exactly how many we will be able to target is unknown until the procedure is underway.

Prayer need #2: Pray that God protects Cindy’s good brain cells and that the Gamma obliterates every last bad cell.

We are also trying to determine our next steps with regard to the systemic treatment {lungs and lymph nodes}. Chemo doesn’t successfully break through the blood-brain barrier, so we need a strategy for those areas as well.

The problem is, the chemo was so hard on her that she lost a great deal of weight with no significant improvement in her pain levels that would justify putting her through another round.

Prayer need next: Pray for God’s wisdom for what we should do now. We are investigating alternative approaches, including a naturopathic oncologist and other similar techniques. No decisions have been made at this point, so please pray for us to use all wisdom as we make such crucial decisions.

As difficult as it is to live with the daily awareness of our own temporariness, there is a sweet place that makes our love for Christ more vital and our dependence on Him more precious. We know that Cindy’s life is in His hands {Psalm 31:15}. We also know that if God has chosen to heal her, then every decision we make will have His favor.

So we are not in panic mode; we are trusting. And we are learning that our plans are just that…plans. But God’s plans are certain.

The stress caught up with me this week. I got strep throat, plus had the very dreaded colonoscopy {screening, just cause I’m really, really old}. So if you could throw up a pray for me to have my strength restored, I would really appreciate that.

Many of you ask how you can help us. We know that you want to help and we could certainly use the help, so our dear friend, Gin Fagan, has volunteered to serve as a coordinator for some of the needs we have. Our needs are wide-ranging, so if you are interested in finding out how you can help, call or email Gin {623,295.8243 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it }

Thank you for your faithful support to our entire family during this time. You are like precious gems to all of us.

 

March 5th, 2010 Update

March 5th, 2010

With Many A Winding Turn...

I was a high school freshman when The Hollies released it, but I’ve been humming it the last hour or so as though it just hit the charts. The line that keeps looping in my brain is this line: “The road is long, with many a winding turn.”

That’s how Cindy’s journey feels…both long and winding. With a couple of switchback turns that still have our heads spinning.

One turn, a welcome turn, is that her nausea has improved. It’s not gone, but it’s much better than the first two weeks following chemo.

A more disappointing turn, however, is that her pain hasn’t. We thought it would. Even our oncologist said that he had expected her pain would lessen – and that the welcome relief would be a sign that this new protocol was working.

It is still early, admittedly, but so far…? Not the kind of improvement we had hoped we could report.

Another surprising turn was that her neurosurgeon scheduled her follow-up brain MRI. It’s been five weeks since our initial report {remember how excited we were to tell you that all the spots but one were either stable or resolved but one? And that “one” seemed to be necrotic {dying}?} So we couldn’t wait to get a new set of pictures taken.

Except…when the doctor called yesterday afternoon {Friday}, the news wasn’t what we had been hoping to hear. That “one” lesion still hasn’t gone away. There are other concerns, but until we meet with our doctors, we don’t know much more than that.

Another turn. It’s amazing, but we had been so fully concentrating on her chemo treatments that we nearly forgot about the brain…how can that be?

Which is why we now turn to you.

Because we really need you to turn to the Lord…on Cindy’s behalf.

How can you pray for her?

• Pray that God turns His face toward her…and gives her peace. {Numbers 6:26}

• Pray that she and I remain strong and courageous, and that we do NOT turn aside to the right or to the left. {Joshua 1:7}

• Pray that the Lord will turn back this story, in a dramatic, miraculous and stunning deliverance. {Psalms 6:4} Pray that He will turn His ear to us and hear our prayer. {Psalm 17:6}

• Pray that He will turn her desert [nausea] into pools of water, and her parched ground [pain] into springs. Pray also that He will turn the darkness into light before us and make all these rough places smooth. {Isaiah 41:18, 42:16}

• Pray that He will turn His ear to us and come quickly to our rescue. For He alone is our rock of refuge and our strong fortress. {Psalm 31:2}

We don’t know what other turns lie ahead. But He does. And yet this one thing we will say: Our lives are in His hands — and from His hands we will never turn — for it’s only there that we find peace.

 

 

Feb. 27th, 2010 Update

February 27, 2010

Seldom do I talk with anybody these days, that two words don’t quickly come spilling from their lips:  “How’s Cindy?”

So I tell them – then they either groan or smile {depending on her status when they happen to ask} and then they say, “You guys are on my mind all the time.  And every time I think of you, I pray.”

We know you do.  We feel it.  And we feel those prayers at a level of intimacy that would be way too hard to try to describe.  Just know this — your prayers are carrying us. 

Alright already…I get it:  How IS Cindy?

It’s been another difficult week.

• Toggling between managing pain and dealing with nausea. 
• Bouncing between managing to eat a few bites and struggling to keep those bites down.
• Not liking how she feels when she takes her pain meds and yet not liking how she feels when she doesn’t take them even more.

Not that there haven’t been some bright moments.

There have.

A friend dropped by yesterday, bringing a comfortable chair for Cindy to sit in when she feels strong enough to sit up.  Evidently, my chair is too big and too “broken in” for her taste!  Go figure.

Her water-infused heating pad also arrived yesterday.  Some stranger from a medical device company in California cared enough to ship it within hours of ordering it and sent it next day…gratis!  We are very grateful, because this tool is already helping us manage her pain more consistently {and comfortably}.

Not exactly the kind of “bright moments” we might have celebrated even twelve months ago – but moments that now lift our spirits and keep us living in anticipation and hope. 

Two nights ago, Cindy was experiencing a great deal of pain.  As I held her hand and knelt by her side, we talked.  It was another one of “those” talks.  We talked through what God’s plan must be for us.  We questioned what the future would bring.  We prayed together and then we cried together.

Soon after, I went to bed and Cindy stayed on the couch {She seems to be more comfortable there}.

She informed me the next morning that she had slept quite well, in spite of everything.

Me…?  Not so much.

It was one of those nights when I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking or my heart from wrestling.  It was only after several hours that I realized, “I need to surrender.”

Surrender…what?

I’m not sure.

Surrender…how?

Fully.

Surrender…again?

Yes, surrender again.

So I did.

I surrendered.

And when I did, I found the words of Sister Basilea Schlink to be profoundly true.  Sister Schlink, the founder of a Protestant order of nuns in Germany, counsels Christians in the midst of a mysterious season to make a modern day version of a vow of praise:  “When you are in suffering say, ‘Yes Father’ and strength will flow into your heart.”

So I said yes.

Hours before, I had tried to say “yes” when Cindy and I were having our “talk.”  But in the darkness of my half-empty bed, I said it this time — to the Lord.

And this time, I meant it.

I wasn’t saying “yes” because I no longer felt alone.  I wasn’t saying “yes” because I was denying our experience.  I wasn’t saying “yes” because I was throwing up my hands in defeat.

I said “yes” as a declaration of our mutual commitment to glorify God…in spite of cancer.  I said “yes” in defiance against our despair.  I said “yes” as a renewed covenant to reflect Jesus no matter what comes our way.

The next day, His strength flowed.  Whether Cindy’s eyes looked brighter — or I just saw them more clearly, I’m not sure.  Whether her appetite was stronger — or it just seemed to me to be stronger, I can’t say.

But I saw strength.

I felt strength.

So, renewed by God’s power, I said it again.

I said, “yes.”

So…

That’s my prayer request this week.  Pray that Cindy and I keep saying “yes.”  Pray that we don’t succumb to our fears and never, ever give in.

Except as we give in to God’s perfect purpose.

 

Feb. 19th, 2010 Update

February 19th, 2010

It’s been a rugged week.

I told you last week that Cindy’s third round of chemo would begin on Monday.

It did.

We had been told that it would not be as difficult as her first round.

So far you can’t prove that by us.

Maybe it will take us some time for us to get back into chemo-rhythm or perhaps this round is more difficult because Cindy’s strength has already been so compromised.  Actually, it doesn’t really matter WHY this week has been so tough, the bottom line is:  It’s been really rough. 
The treatment plan actually included both an infusion {which happened on Monday} and an oral medication {which we started on Tuesday, but stopped on Wednesday}.  It simply proved to be too much for her.  At least for now.  We will meet with our doctor again on Monday to discuss our options.
Now for some good news:  The initial MRI report indicated a spot on her spine, something that greatly concerned both us and our physicians.  The final report from the radiologist, however, explained that the “spot” was related to past chemo treatments and is not reflective of any further progression of her cancer.

Yes!

As people of faith, Cindy and I do not discount the role prayer may have played in that…so please!  Continue praying without ceasing for my bride.
Another reason for optimism is that the increased pain in her side, according to her doctor, may be a signal that the chemo is doing what it’s supposed to be doing.  Namely, kicking the ever-loving life out of all those nasty cancer cells!  Now that’s a pain we can put up with!
Here’s some more good news:  Our family has been a source of great support to us this past week.  Two of our daughters dropped everything and flew to Phoenix to be with us.  Our granddaughter, Olivia, was actually with Grammy on Monday during chemo {I hope you enjoy the picture as much we have!}. 

By the way, I plan to preach at The Crossroads this Sunday.  It won’t be the easiest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s never easy when I have to do it without Cindy at my side, but Pastor is who I am and preaching is what God has called me to do.  But to be honest with you, I really can relate to something Mother Theresa once said:  “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”

That’s about it for now, except this:  Pray.  And here’s specifically how we would like you to pray for us during these next several days.

• Pray for healing.  Complete, miraculous, stunningly breath-taking healing.
• Pray that Cindy continues to regain her strength from Monday’s chemo.  Pray that she regains her appetite and starts gaining some weight.  Pray that her nausea will diminish and that her pains levels will continue to decrease.  Pray that additional side-effects will be minimized. 
• Pray that Cindy is able to increase her mobility and that her energy levels will bounce back. 
• Pray that the doctor will have great wisdom as he plots either a re-start of the oral chemo or a reassessment of other options.
• Pray that Cindy and I are able to maintain our equilibrium as our extended family must now, understandably, re-set their own lives and return to their own responsibilities.  Pray for our kids as they struggle with the desire to be with us and the need to shepherd their own young families. 
• Pray that Cindy and I faithfully reflect the peace and joy we have in Jesus – and that we use this incredible platform to the maximum glory of our God.

Thanks for taking a read and supporting us in so many wonderful ways.  I’ll check in again next Friday.

 
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