Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Dear Michaela, Jenna, and Alec,

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to not only chronicle your growing up years and our family life, but also to allow me the piece of mind that you will always have a clear sense of who I am, what I believe, and of course, that you all know how utterly in love I am with all of you and how you all truly are the center of my being and the loves of my life.

Something happened last week that is so remarkable, so incredibly well-timed, there is just no other explanation for it except to say that it was God Himself reaching down from Heaven and directly touching our lives.  I want to document it here so that you can always and forever be able to look back at this and say that your mom witnessed a miracle, and that all that stuff she brought you to Sunday School and church to learn about is, in fact, quite true.

I was driving around doing errands on Tuesday of last week while Alec was in preschool.  As I approached a stoplight, it hit me that this week was American Education Week, the week of school that parents are invited in to see their kids in the classroom and eyeball the teacher in action.  I had done nothing to prepare for this.  Not one thing.  I was pretty sure that it was today and tomorrow, but had to look that up; I had to check to see if Gammie could watch Alec for me while I went; I had to forgo Bible Study and email the teacher that I wasn't coming; I had to call Alec's speech therapist and rearrange her therapy time; I had to contact Jenna's teacher and see when her class was accepting visitors for American Education Week and make sure they didn't overlap; and most of all, I had to check with Michaela that it was still okay for me to come into her classes.

So, after finding out that all of that was juggle-able and that Michaela did, in fact, want me to go, I set the plan into place. I would go in at about 9:45 and stay until 1:45pm, when I had to leave to get Alec and meet his therapist at our house.

I went in, attended two classes, and saw Michaela's Girl Scout troop leader, Dana, who I've known since our daughters were 2.  She was there for the day and because our girls have lunch together, we would be together in the "Parent Break Room" during lunch.  (The school didn't want us parents gumming up the works in the cafeteria.)  I was excited that I'd have a few minutes to chat with her.

When lunch time came around, I kissed Michaela and sent her off to the cafeteria and went in search of my Parent Break Room.  As I walked in, I didn't see Dana yet but I saw my friend Mandy, whose son went to preschool with Michaela and whom I don't get to see much- except in Walmart, where I seem to run into all my mom friends- but keep up regularly with on Facebook.  She was sitting in the desk behind me, so I turned and started chatting with her. 

We were very pleasantly talking about a whole range of topics- staying home vs. going to work, living with Middle School aged kids, volunteering at school, etc, etc... just very general, fun Mom chit-chat.  It happened that Mandy knows my mom because my mom watched Michaela for me when I worked part time after having Michaela and Mandy and my mom got to know each other from picking up the kids at preschool.

"How's your mom?" Mandy asked.
"Oh, good, she's good.  I don't know if you know this, but my dad has cancer, so she's pretty focused on that right now."
The usual "Oh I'm sorry to hear that" ensued, and I briefly said that he is getting chemo and actually is having a CT scan today to check on the progress of the treatment.

"What kind of cancer does he have?" she asked.

 "Oh, it's this really rare cancer that started in his appendix and now is in his abdomen.  He has tumors and the tumors excrete a mucus that is building up in his belly and makes him really uncomfortable."

"His appendix? I've never heard of that."
"Yeah it's really, really rare... there's only about 1000 cases a year that are diagnosed worldwide."

At that moment, another mom who is sitting behind Mandy and to her right leans forward and says to us, "I don't mean to interrupt, but did you say appendix cancer?"

"Yes, I did," I answered.

"Because I had appendix cancer three years ago.  I had the same thing.  I had the surgery... is your dad having the surgery? Where is he being treated?"

"He's seeing a doctor right at St. Peter's Hospital... he gets chemo every two weeks."

And then a flood of information came out of this stranger: information about a doctor in MA who is a oncological surgeon who specializes in this exact type of cancer, information about her surgery, about the recovery, about how rare it is.

Mandy rushed to get me some paper and I scrounged through my purse to find a pen to write all the info down.

"My heart is beating like a drum!" she said.  "I don't mean to listen to your conversation, but I couldn't believe it when you said he has appendix cancer!  Getting the diagnosis is like getting struck by lightening..."

And that was exactly our experience with PopPop... virtually symptomless except for a loss of appetite and some fatigue and a feeling of fullness in his belly.

Later this angel sent to us gave me her name, her phone number, her email address, and the name of a research foundation dedicated to finding treatment and cure for this type of cancer, which is called PMP, and their very helpful website.

I thanked her profusely and marvelled at the chance that we were placed in the exact same room on the exact same day.

And as all this was happening, PopPop was getting a CT scan done of his abdomen to see where things were at compared to when this all started in July.  And when he returned on Friday, the information given to me was even more important, as the CT results showed that the tumors were still there- not growing, but not being destroyed either.  His doctor recommended that the chemo be stopped.  There was nothing else his doctor could do.  While this was a relief to PopPop- the last round of chemo had made him impossibly fatigued and the strange side effect from one of the meds, extreme cold sensitivity, was getting more and more troublesome- it removed a key method of fighting the cancer from our arsenal. 

If God had not intervened at that moment, we would have been adrift.  And hopeless.

But instead, we have the name of a doctor who specializes in this.  Gammie and PopPop looked her up online and she looks excellent  They called her and have an appointment to see her in a few weeks.  They have sent all of his medical paperwork to her for her to review and see if he is a candidate for this surgery.

We have hope that he will get more time with us.

And this is what makes this even MORE amazing.  I had been struggling the last few weeks, searching for God in all of this mess.  Not understanding why this would be His plan.  Not feeling His hand in this.  And all of my anxiety and anger and pain was being sent to one vertebrae in my back and getting me all balled up.  I was in real pain, seeing a chiropractor and getting some relief, but felt that there was more emotional work to be done to help.  I started going to a Restorative Yoga class, all about gentle deep breathing and clearing your mind and really focusing on long, well-supported poses.  Turns out this yoga class makes a wonderful time to pray.  So I did.  I started praying for God to bless me, open me- both open my back and open my heart- and to touch me with the Holy Spirit.  Just give me some sign that You are there and help me to relax and give it all up to You.

This was the prayer I prayed, and the next day was the day I went into the Middle School and met this person.

Michaela, Jenna and Alec, do you realize all the pieces that had to fall into place for this chain of events to occur?  This moment in time was years in the making, and had dozens of moving parts that had to align juuuuuuust right for me and this woman to meet and exchange information.  But do you know what I KNOW it was? It was God.  It was the Holy Spirit blessing this whole nightmare and moving us forward.

This story will be even better and more amazing if PopPop does turn out to be a candidate for the surgery and has it and is healed.  But for now, just this is enough. 

Enough for me to see God's face smiling at us and His hands guiding us. 

Remember, the Holy Spirit told me on the day of PopPop's first oncology appointment that "it's all going to be okay."  I have since realized that what that meant was not neccesarily that PopPop was going to be okay.  Whatever happens, it may not be the outcome we desire, but will be okay.

God is with us.



Winterhoff Family said...

Beautifully said. I would write more, but I am a blubbering mess right now after reading your post and just want to tell you that we love you. Amen.

Anonymous said...

What a witness to us all and you have chronicled it perfectly. God is good! Love, Mom and Dad

Anonymous said...

We are all thinking of your Dad and family and praying for him everyday. When I heard the story from Brian, I was amazed, and my first thought was it is for a Good reason.
the Bundalo family

Anonymous said...

God is with us indeed...EMMANUEL! We thank God for this gentle, and yet powerful, manifestation of His love and presence and continue to pray fervently for Pop-Pop's healing. Love, LW

Anonymous said...

Cheryl, even though we are walking through this valley with you, to read your explanation and testimony to your babies is so beautiful and to virtually see God's Hands working all these things together for His purpose is even more beautiful. We, too, are praying for Wa and all of you. Thank you for your witness to all of us. God is good all the time. All the time God is good. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) Love Char

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