We’ve been to the oncologist this week. Except for a nausea, fatigue, pain, anxiety, agitation, and a touch of chemo rage; Dave’s done pretty well this round. Blood Work is, ironically, excellent; even the liver enzymes, as Dave continues taking Fen Ben. We’ve had some really rough days for Dave; filled with pain, fatigue, and anxiety from insomnia. But there are less of them, as he now takes more powerful chemo, but doesn’t have to do the rounds as often as before.
We’ve also had some pretty good days. The best days are Dave’s non-chemo days, when he only takes Fen Ben. (By the way, this is not an advertorial for Fenbendazole. We purchase our own, and we don’t sell any products except for our Strength Through Jesus Apparel, which helps support St. Jude’s). We are sharing our cancer journey, what works and what doesn’t, in hopes of helping others battling cancer.
What has helped most, is leaning on Strength Through Jesus with the support and encouragement of many beautiful people. It’s during the better days, when Dave is only on the Fen Ben (which has been found to shrink cancer tumors, but is an alternative therapy) that he is better able to move around, gain back his appetite, and best of all… spend more quality time with family and friends. In His perfect timing, God keeps sending us the people we love, who also love us.
Some of the very best days are when friends and family come to visit. Dave’s sister, Wendy, and our niece and nephew, along with his other sister, Dana; came in September to celebrate our daughter’s 13th birthday. They brought lots of presents for our daughter, the cousins had some fun adventures, and we ate way too many homemade cookies! It was a wonderful, longer visit; which was still too short for all of us. We only wish Tennessee was a lot closer!
Dave’s best childhood buddies came later in September. Since Dave can’t go back home, they brought Maine to our family. They cooked us a feast of 20 lobsters, which they managed to bring onto the airplane, in a huge box of dry ice! They also treated us to a big box of delicious fresh Whoopie pies from a real bakery. (Those didn’t last long!) A lot of joy was packed into a short visit!
Dave is now taking five days of chemo at the beginning of the month, in pill form. Then two days off. Then five days on chemo. He gets the rest of the month off, and we are very excited about this! There is hope in the days of feeling better, and in Dave being able to feel somewhat normal some of the time. I even got a chance to have a getaway with one of my best friends, Robin. We talked nonstop, as we enjoyed a long lunch, and then a bit of shopping for some fall decor. I felt more like myself. As a caretaker, it was especially refreshing and rejuvenating to have a fun day, free of responsibilities!
I get told all the time by caring friends, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through…” I appreciate it when people admit they can’t comprehend what it would be like to try to live a normal like with rare stage four cancer, especially if it’s terminal. “Terminal” means there is no known cure in the medical world for this type of cancer. Chemo only buys some time. Dave’s abdomen is littered with aggressive, fast growing tumors. We need a miracle here!
So I thought, in what way can I explain how we’re coping? How are we doing this? How is Dave doing this? As an avid World War II reader, I began to think; you know what? It’s like living during a war… while still knowing God is on our side, no matter what happens. It’s looking to Jesus with hope, so he can help us see the silver lining in each and every day.
War is about survival. There are fears about health, bread and butter, shelter, pain and suffering, and separation from loved ones. Jews were imprisoned in concentration camps, where they experienced immeasurable pain and suffering. They witnessed horrific losses of everything: homes, belongings, family members, and even their identity. We haven’t seen a war of this magnitude, until now… in Ukraine. Ukrainians are losing their loved ones, their homes and jobs. They need food, shelter, and supplies. Forced to become refugees, they continue to escape to welcoming foreign countries to receive aid.
In no way do I compare our family’s battle with stage four cancer, or comprehend what the precious Jews went through in World War II. I have even thanked God that we are not going through this cancer battle in the midst of a war zone, the way some cancer patients in Ukraine are being forced to do.
Yet, we are fighting our own personal war, right here at home; the war on terminal cancer. Dave is our own wounded brave soldier, fighting to survive his own deadly battle. Our family has been turned upside-down, as we tend to his needs, hoping and praying he will miraculously survive. Through my reading, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about surviving wars. Those with the will to survive have been the ones who have had someone to live for, someone to save, faith in God, and the determination and willingness to face their fears.
Innocents in WWII were wrongfully imprisoned by a beast of a dictator, Hitler, who was an antichrist. Jews, and later their neighbors, lived day to day through unimaginable trauma. One of the ways they coped through the worst of circumstances, was by being grateful for the smallest good things that came along. They looked for the silver lining in the simplest joys: an unexpected minuscule piece of chocolate, a secretly delivered letter in code from a loved one, the surprise of finding a long lost relative, or the comfort of making a new friend. Survivors looked forward to Sundays; the one day they were allowed a slice of freedom to visit family and friends. These same things are helping us survive the war against cancer, giving us freedom from feeling imprisoned and isolated by this beast, the deadly disease… cancer.
When a warrior goes off to war, his loved ones are left behind; wondering when, and if, he will return. The family is left struggling with feelings of rejection, abandonment, anger, guilt, and fear; for a variety of reasons. (Praying against these emotions, which are from the enemy; is very powerful if you pray against them in the name of Jesus!) The household runs differently now. There are more jobs to do, budgeting and saving become more necessary, and life is different than it was before the war. Children grow up faster, because they take on more responsibilities. Priorities change. Some things don’t matter anymore; while family and friends are valued more than ever. There is more work, and everyone is exhausted. Simple things bring the most joy: a sunny day with a cool breeze, reading a good book, or visiting with a close friend.
When the beloved soldier comes back wounded, there is rejoicing over his homecoming. But things aren’t the same anymore. He needs care around the clock, and he doesn’t always act like his normal self. With such severe injuries, the soldier’s life is no longer the same. There may be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, amputations, and chemical poisoning from being in the war zone. The soldier, who has so greatly suffered, and has made peace with death, welcomed it even; now needs to find peace about living. His body has let him down, so he doesn’t quite know what life holds for him in the future, or if he is even going to make it at all.
Unless he refuses, the soldier continues to receives care for his wounds, no matter how severe they are. Sometimes the wounds slowly, ever so slowly, begin to heal. This doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods; not by a long shot. The suffering can be so bad, it makes living extremely difficult. If he’s going to make it, the severely injured soldier needs a lot of prayers. In fact… he needs a miracle.
Recently we’ve had a small shift in the overall mood in our home, and in our thinking. We’ve always known God can miraculously heal Dave. The question has been, will He? We do know that God has a greater plan that we don’t always understand, and that He loves His children, no matter what that plan looks like. Recently, as Dave has had some better days, we’ve started wondering… if God heals our soldier, what happens then?
This is why I have insomnia every night. My mind can’t rest, because it’s going in a thousand different directions: If this happens, we need to… but if that happens, we will… ? How can we do it all? How can we prepare for both scenarios at once, especially when it has looked like only the most painful scenario for so long? I’m finding out, that Dave’s been thinking this way too…
On a sleepless night after his oncology appointment, Dave surprised me by saying, “I was at peace with death. Now I need to be at peace with living.” At first it hurt my heart, but I’m beginning to understand. Living with a terminal disease is not easy, especially one so painful as rare stage four cancer, resulting in an ileostomy bag, a G-tube, and a chemo port; all on the front of his body. But, Dave was talking about living. It intrigued me, and it still gives me hope. He said, “I don’t want to lose the lessons I’ve learned if God heals me… or anyone to lose what they’ve learned from me. I need to trust God… I’m still learning… I’m still amazed at the strength in Jesus. I’m still learning and learning and learning.”
Of course, we ultimately want Dave to receive a miracle healing on earth. We know God can do it, and we ask Him always for Dave’s healing according to His Will, in Jesus’ name. Dave belongs to Jesus. He is a warrior for Christ, which means God is working on his behalf. God is on our side. No matter what happens, victory is ours. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28 NIV).
We humbly thank you for continuing to pray for Dave and our family. His next cancer scan will be on November 28th. This will be an especially anxious time, during fall, my hardest time of year. The scan comes right after one of our family’s favorite holidays to spend together; Thanksgiving. Results will be coming in the next day, November 29th, which is Dave’s birthday. Christmas will be right around the corner. We are hoping and praying for better results than last time, and for some joyful holiday time together.
Meanwhile, we’ll be working hard to survive, while still trying to maintain a somewhat normal life by doing school, taking part in activities, working, and hanging out with friends and family. We’ll be finding joy: in a piece of chocolate (or Starburst Unwrapped Fave Reds, if you ask Dave) laughing at jokes sent as texts which only we can understand, and smiling at cards filled with well wishes, Bible verses, and love. We’ll be hanging out with both old and new friends, and cuddling with our doggies, who love seeing our visitors as well! We’ll be spending quality time as a family, thankful that we can be together every day; and looking forward to your visits, encouragement, and prayers.
We’ll be tending to our wounded warrior, as we now live in a foreign land, trying to navigate through the map of which direction to take next. Even though Heaven is so much better, we’ll be trying our best to make our brave, wounded soldier as comfortable, peaceful, and joyful as possible in his foreign environment. Every battling soldier deserves our best care.
Every soldier fighting a war looks forward to setting sail for their true home in their own country. Sometimes they have the opportunity to leave; yet choose to stay, because they can’t yet get a visa for their loved ones. Sometimes these brave warriors stay, even though their lives are threatened with danger every single day. Yet still, they always look to the sea. Is the ship coming today, or tomorrow? But the best and bravest soldiers love Jesus. They fight every day to survive, and submit to The Greatest Superior Officer, by putting it in His Hands; saying, God, may Your will be done.”
If they make it, every wounded soldier looks forward to a welcome home parade in his hometown. Currently, our own wounded soldier cannot travel. So, until, or unless he can; our cheerleaders are coming here from his hometown, and from other states around the country. Loved ones keep coming to celebrate Dave’s strength through Jesus!
Even now, we’ve just enjoyed a second visit from Dave’s mom and stepdad. His brother, Mike, came with his wife, Paula. They live two hours away; yet keep driving up to bring us love, cheer, and support when we need it most. The men, including our sons, worked incredibly hard, all weekend, to redo our entire deck for Dave. Dave’s mom helped too! The gift was huge for our whole family, because the original deck was dangerously falling to pieces.
On Sunday, our entire family went out to lunch with Dave; and we managed to to visit a corn maze, and go for a hayride. These fall traditions (Dave’s favorite time of year) are made even more precious, just because we are together. Simple joy can be found in the cool autumn breeze and the contrast of cheery orange pumpkins against the cerulean blue sky. May you and I appreciate every good gift God sends our way. Our family is doing that, more than we ever have before. Hug one another, and say “I love you!” Every moment with those we love, is a gift from God. Please pray with us for a miracle healing from God, in the name of Jesus Christ; for Dave, our very own brave, wounded, and strong soldier!
“No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you” (Ps 33:16-22 NIV).
4/10 Dave’s Testimony: My husband has Deadly Cancer… Palm Sunday Miracles (This post is the beginning of our journey with rare stage four cancer. It also contains all links on Dave’s Testimony, in order, at the bottom of this post.)
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Angela Royse Pelleman