March 25, 2008

Still in His hands

(This is Olivia holding a ladybug very carefully at Hospice in 2006)

I talked to my brother, Brian for quite awhile today. We started talking about Jeff and the last memories we had of him. The last time that I was at Jeff's house was early July 2006. Jeff had been having a lot of shoulder pain and finally decided to call for an ambulance to come and take him to the hospital. He had also been having a lot of trouble walking and was sleeping a lot as well. I remember most of our family had come to his house that night. When the paramedics arrived, they were trying to assess Jeff's condition. My dad let them know that Jeff had a brain tumor. The paramedics were not the most compassionate men I had ever met, yet I know that we were all a little sensitive that night. One of them asked, "Is it terminal?" No one said anything for a what seemed like a long time and then the word "No!" came out of my mouth. Terminal? That meant not getting better and I had not looked at it that way before. I knew Jeff's condition was getting worse, but I fully believed he would get better. The paramedics were not able to get a stretcher down their narrow staircase, so Jeff was brought down in a wheelchair that they carried. Sitting up was painful for him at that time, and it broke my heart to see him come down those steps like that. I had finished radiation treatment about two months prior to that day, but was still going to the hospital every three weeks for a hormonal treatment. Jeff and I had both been trying a special hair shampoo that was supposed to help your hair grow. Mine was coming back really thick, and he had only one area on the back of his head, just above his neck that was thick. I am sure that was because his radiation had not gone that far back. When Emily was born, the first hair that grew in thick was the same spot that Jeff had hair. Not only was she born on his birthday, but she had his hair too! I can remember sitting in the emergency room waiting for the doctor to read the latest scan they did on Jeff that night. I stayed until after 3 am, just watching as Jeff snored away. Why was I getting better and he was not going to come back home again? I felt like I needed to fight and pray extra hard for him because I did not want to hold the victory over this disease by myself. I know it sounds crazy, but I think that part of me was relieved when I was diagnosed with a recurrence. It made me feel a little less guilty about having survived. Now, I have no hair... no eyelashes... no eyebrows... and I am reminded of what Jeff went through every time I look in the mirror. What Jeff and I went through together. God has taught me so much in the last few years. I feel like Jeff really helped me more than I realized the first time around. This time, I know that God has used Jeff to help me even more than the first time. There is a chance I will be finished with chemotherapy in three weeks. I should have scans again at the end of April.  I feel like I need to claim victory for both Jeff and I here, just as I am sure Jeff claimed it for both of us in heaven on September 30, 2006.

For some reason, when I was younger, it used to drive me crazy when someone used the microwave and stopped it before the timer went off so there were a few seconds left on the screen instead of the clock. I would always be the first to clear it so that I could see what time it was. Whenever Jeff would come home from college, he used to leave it like that on purpose to bother me. To this day, whenever it is left like that on my microwave, I smile to myself and think of Jeff. There was also a time when Jeff still lived at home, and had gone out for the evening. Before I went to bed, I had borrowed his fan to put in my room, as we did not have air conditioning. My mom left him a note for when he came home that said "Jeff, your fan is in Amy's room." He wrote back on that same note "Amy is my only fan in her room. I think I'll leave her there." I kept that note for years and years, and I probably still have it packed away somewhere. Today, Brian and I talked about some memories from Hospice. I can remember one time Jeff was eating a banana. Gwen had peeled it half way down and Jeff was able to hold it in his right hand to eat it. He was not able to use his left hand by this point, so when it needed peeled farther, he did not even say anything. He just patiently waited. I went over and peeled it the rest of the way for him. This sounds like something so small, but I admired his lack of frustration. Brian and I laughed at the fact that Jeff had that remote controlled fart machine. Up until the week before he passed away, he was still putting it under his bed at Hospice so the nurses would think it was him. Who does that!? I admire those things so much, as silly as some of them are. He was my brother. He was funny and smart and handsome. He was patient and calm and a wonderful part of our family. We all still miss him so much, and it is hard to know that life will never be the same again. Life is hard, but God is good.

As my mom and I were on our way home from Chicago last week, I started writing down phrases that God gave me. I wanted to share them.

The most grounded I have ever been is when I am on His wings.

The strongest I have ever been has been in the exact moment that I have been the weakest.

The closest I have ever felt to God has been when Satan was the nearest.

The tallest I have ever stood is when I am on my knees. 

As I said, there is a possibility that I will be finished with chemotherapy on April 15. That is if I do not get delayed anymore. I was called last night and told that my white blood cell count was down to a .4, which is the lowest it has ever gone. As long as that goes back up, I will leave for my 11th round on Monday the 31st. I will be meeting with my doctor to see if there are any plans yet for what I will do after my 12th round. I am also really praying for what God has planned for my life after this as well.

After receiving an email from a friend, I was reminded of a song that I wanted to post the lyrics to.

The Warrior Is A Child - Twila Paris
Lately I've been winning battles left and right,
But even winners can get wounded in the fight.
People say that I'm amazing, strong beyond my years,
But they don't see inside of me, I'm hiding all the tears.

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down.
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around.
I drop my sword and cry for just a while, 
'cause deep inside this armor, the warrior is a child.

Unafraid because His armor is the best.
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest.
People say that I'm amazing, never face retreat.
But they don't see the enemies that lay me at His feet.

They don't know that I go running home when I fall down.
They don't know who picks me up when no one is around.
I drop my sword and cry for just a while, 
'cause deep inside this armor, the warrior is a child.

(c) 1984 Singspiration Music

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